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3dfoto/iStockBy JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in many parts of the United States, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is rolling out a new ad during tonight's World Series game that features an Arizona small business owner who criticizes President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic, saying the continued spread of the virus makes her fear for her own life.

"Every day seems to be getting a little worse, and I don't think [Trump] has a way to get this under control. I mean, I'm afraid of dying. I'm afraid of not seeing my kid grow up," says Dina, a salon owner in Arizona, in the 60-second ad that will debut nationally on Friday night during Game 3 of the World Series.

"Looking at the numbers rising every day, knowing somebody who died, that kind of thing just starts hitting home really hard. This is serious," adds Dina, who's previously appeared in ads supporting Biden's campaign. "It starts at the top. It starts with Donald Trump. Even when Sept. 11th happened, I felt like we were united as a country. It is not like that now. He has divided all of us."

The ad comes the day after Biden and Trump clashed during the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, over the federal government's response to the pandemic, and after Biden's speech this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, laying out how his administration would work to reduce virus spread.

"As many as 210,000 avoidable deaths," Biden said on Friday, referring then to Trump, "but there's not much he would do differently? The United States is 4% of the entire world's population, yet we make up 20% of all the deaths worldwide. If this is a success, what does failure look like?"

The recent uptick in cases includes a record number of new cases in nine states reported on Thursday. Trump has repeatedly sought to portray a much rosier picture of the nation's battle with a virus that has claimed over 220,000 American lives.

"It will go away, and as I say, we're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. It's going away," Trump said at Thursday's debate.

The new ad is the third that the Biden campaign, which smashed fundraising records this cycle, is running during this year's World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays.

Biden is set to campaign in Pennsylvania on Saturday, while Trump, continuing a torrid pace on the trail as well, is scheduled to hold three rallies in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, a state that has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



yorkfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With 11 days to go until Election Day and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters have turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots early.

More than 50 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The candidates faced off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville Thursday evening -- their last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president has remained on defense as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. He has two rallies in Florida today.

Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls -- his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- stayed off the trail ahead of the debate, a pattern for the former vice president. On Friday, he's scheduled to deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on COVID-19 and the economy.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Here's how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

Oct 23, 6:22 pm
Trump rallies at The Villages in Florida amid slipping support among seniors


In a telling sign of concern in Trump circles over slipping support among seniors, Trump held a rally this afternoon at The Villages, a sprawling mecca for retirees in a conservative pocket of central Florida -- a state he narrowly won in 2016 but is key to a 2020 victory.

"Eleven days from now, we're going to win the state of Florida. We're going to win four more years in the White House. I think Joe Biden proved last night that he's not capable of being president of the United States," Trump said, slamming Biden for painting a bleak picture of the pandemic at the final debate.

"Last night he said America is entering a dark winter. Isn't that really inspirational?" Trump continued. "He's trying to scare people basically. ... But we're not entering a dark winter. We're entering the final turn and approaching the light at the end of the tunnel."

Trump claimed that the virus is "rounding the corner beautifully" -- just one day after the U.S. set a single-day record for new coronavirus cases.

The president also teased that he'll be voting in person on Saturday in West Palm Beach. Though the president has voted via an absentee ballot in the past, he told the crowd of supporters he prefers to vote in person.

"I'm old fashioned, I guess. I like to get in line. And if I have to stand there for two hours -- maybe they'll move you up a little bit -- but I like to vote," Trump said. "Get out and vote."

Oct 23, 4:35 pm
Harris appeals to HBCU grads, Black men at back-to-back events in Atlanta


Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., met with students of Historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and participated in a panel discussion focused on Black men this afternoon in Atlanta at The Gathering Spot, a black-owned social club and co-working space that caters to young Black professionals.

Harris first met with HBCU students, including many from the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of Black colleges in the city. Harris, herself a graduate of an HBCU -- Howard University  -- gave brief remarks about the value of an HBCU education.

"It's about being in an environment where every message you receive challenges you to be great, because it knows your greatness. It's not something you have to prove," Harris said.

Harris made an appeal to students to get out the vote for the Biden-Harris ticket, promising a multimillion-dollar investment in HBCUs and talking about the history of suppressing the Black vote.

"We need to vote to honor the ancestors, people like the late great John Lewis, right?" she said. "There's a reason to vote, which is that there's so much at stake in the outcome of this election.”

Harris then moved to another part of the building for a panel discussion focused on Black men in which she touted aspects of Biden’s Build Back Better plan intended to support Black communities, including increasing the minimum wage and low-interest loans for minority-owned small businesses.

-ABC News' Averi Harper

Oct 23, 3:50 pm
Biden slams Trump's handling of COVID-19, outlines his own plan


In afternoon remarks on COVID-19 and the economy, Biden slammed Trump for what he called his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and predicted a “dark winter ahead” as the virus resurges in parts of the country.

“My fellow Americans, last night, we saw the president of the United States lie to the American people, and repeatedly lie, about the state of this pandemic,” Biden began, reading from a teleprompter for the speech. “As I told him last night, we're not learning to live with it, we're learning to die with it.”

Biden then laid out his plan to beat COVID-19 which includes, he said, enacting a national testing strategy, asking Congress for another relief bill to sign by the end of January, building a national core of contact tracers and appointing a supply commander to ensure the U.S. can manufacture critical supplies at home.

He also emphasized universal masking saying he would ask every governor to mandate mask wearing in their states and turn to local officials if they refused, along with making mask-wearing a mandatory practice  in federal buildings and on interstate transportation.

Oct 23, 2:57 pm
Trump departs for Florida eyeing senior vote


The president departed the White House South Lawn this afternoon for the battleground of Florida, a state he narrowly won in 2016, to court the senior vote first with a rally in The Villages, a sprawling mecca for retirees in a conservative pocket of central Florida.

Underpinning Trump's success in 2016 was, in part, an army of seniors that made up a large slice of the electorate and backed him by 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, according to national exit poll data. Older voters are among the most likely to vote and have sided with Republican nominees in every presidential election since 2004, reinforcing Trump four years ago and helping tilt key battleground states in his favor.

But this cycle, Biden is cutting into Trump's coalition, making significant gains with older voters across the U.S., particularly in must-win states for Trump. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found the two men running even among likely voters 65 and older nationally.

Trump is leading Biden by 8 points among likely voters over 65 in Florida, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll -- a margin slashed by roughly half compared with 2016 when he carried this demographic by 17 points in the state.

Sources told ABC News Trump campaign aides have grown weary of the president's declining support among older Americans, a group they know is critical to his reelection chances.

-ABC News’ Kendall Karson and Will Steakin

Oct 23, 12:51 pm
Harris defends Biden’s fossil fuel comment made during debate


Upon landing in Atlanta, Sen. Kamala Harris was asked to give her response to workers in the energy sector who might be worried about Biden's remark at the debate that his administration would transition out of the oil industry over time and end federal subsidies for fossil fuels.

"Let’s be really clear about this. Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking," Harris said. "He is going to deal with oil subsidies but that’s -- you know the president likes to put everything out of context, but let’s be clear what Joe was talking about was banning subsidies but he will not ban fracking in America."

Harris' defense of her running mate comes as Trump and his campaign have seized on the comment, claiming Biden has said in the past he would ban all fracking. The former vice president insists he said he would ban fracking on federal lands, not altogether.

It also comes as Trump and Biden court the battleground state of Pennsylvania, key to a pathway to the White House.

The comments are significant as Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. More natural gas was fracked from Pennsylvania wells in 2019 than in any prior year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

-ABC News' Averi Harper

Oct 23, 12:06 pm
GOP candidates on the trail


Here’s where the candidates on the Republican ticket are campaigning today:


President Donald Trump:


Trump is slated to travel to Florida this afternoon for a campaign rally at The Villages, a massive Republican retirement community, at 4:30 p.m. Later on, he’s scheduled to host a second campaign rally in Pensacola at 8 p.m. as he aims to secure the battleground state he narrowly won in 2016.

The president is also expected to early vote in West Palm Beach on Saturday, according to the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence:


The vice president is scheduled to campaign in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, kicking off the day at an afternoon rally in Swanton, Ohio, at 1p.m. before heading to West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, for a 4:30 p.m. rally.

Oct 23, 11:44 am
Biden backtracks on transitioning away from oil


In the final moments of the debate, Biden made what both he and Trump referred to as a “big statement” when the former vice president said, "I'd have a transition from the oil industry, yes.”

Trump and his campaign immediately seized on the comment.

"He's going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that, Texas?... Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma?"

Biden went on to say the oil industry pollutes "significantly" and that he would stop giving the oil industry federal subsidies.

As he departed Nashville Thursday, Biden emphasized to reporters the transition from oil would happen over time and ultimately create new jobs.

While the Trump campaign told reporters the plan "would kill millions of jobs and cripple our economy," Trump delivered on a promise he made on the debate stage, when he posted a video of spliced news clips on Twitter late Thursday -- with the caption, "Here you go @JoeBiden" -- to rebut Biden's claim that he never said he wants to end fossil fuels and ban fracking.

Trump might be right that Biden's words on energy and oil could frighten voters already jittery on the economy, but ABC News’ Deputy Political Director Mary Alice Parks notes that if the president is really worried about holding Oklahoma or Texas at this stage, his nerves themselves are telling.

Oct 23, 11:21 am
Five key takeaways from the final presidential debate

After the second presidential debate was canceled following Trump's coronavirus diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization, both he and Biden returned to the stage Thursday night for their final opportunity to draw direct contrasts with one another before Election Day.

For 90 relatively-civil minutes, the pair sparred over a range of topics including the pandemic, health care, election security, immigration, their personal financial entanglements and climate change, among other things, guided by moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News.

The closing arguments arrived, however, on a day in which the number of early votes cast this year eclipsed the number of early votes total in 2016 -- still with days to go until Nov. 3. Over 50 million Americans have already voted, which leaves a winnowing group of persuadable individuals for Trump and Biden to win over.

Though there was some doubt about whether the event would take place after Trump repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates’ attempt to hold a virtual second debate prior to its eventual cancelation -- and later its decision to mute the candidates' microphones during portions of Thursday's discussion -- the debate moved forward without delay and largely absent of the repeated interruptions that marred the first.

Click here to read five key takeaways from the final presidential debate.


-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett and Adam Kelsey


Oct 23, 10:47 am
Trump still searching for Biden who isn’t


He's trailing in the polls, running low on cash and watching campaign aides scramble to avoid blame for impending defeat.

For all that, Trump still might have the campaign where he wants it. If that's the case, he still needs his opponent to be someone and something that he isn't quite -- or hasn't yet been, in the minds of voters who still mostly like him.

The second and final debate was a study in contrasts from the first.

One thing that didn't change, though, was Trump's attempts to make Biden out as a corrupt and incompetent extremist. The plays that worked against Hillary Clinton and may have worked against Bernie Sanders have shown few signs of effectiveness against Biden.

Biden sought to bring the conversation back to bigger issues and called Trump "confused": "He thinks he's running against somebody else."

The former vice president gave Trump some of what he wanted late in the debate when he said he would "transition from the oil industry."

It's an easy and obvious line of attack for Republicans who want and need to frame Biden as a puppet of the far left. But redefining Biden will remain difficult -- even if the president found a way to stay on message from here.

-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein

Oct 23, 10:10 am
Pence votes in-person in Indiana


Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence cast their ballots in-person this morning back home in Indiana.

They were originally scheduled to early vote the week of the vice-presidential debate but that was rescheduled to today.

Afterward, they both gave a thumbs up to the cameras.

When a local reporter asked Pence if there was anything he’d like to say, he answered: "Great honor. And great to be back home again. Thank you."

Pence has campaign stops today in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He holds two rallies in Florida on Saturday.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



ABEMOS/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- On Nov. 3, the popular vote will directly decide the winners of races up and down the ballot, except for one.

While voters elect members of Congress, occupants of governor's mansions, state legislators, mayors and other local officers, the nation's highest office is determined by the Electoral College -- an obscure and controversial feature of America's electoral system established by the Constitution.

In every presidential election, dating back to the country's first in 1789, voters cast their ballots for a slate of electors, who are often party loyalists nominated by a state's political party to pledge support to the nominee.

The two presidential candidates jockey for the needed 270 electoral votes of the 538 total at stake to clinch the White House. With some states solidly in Republicans' or Democrats' corner, the focus on the electoral map typically narrows to the key battlegrounds -- a collection of states that are likely to tilt the election in one candidate's favor.

Here's what to know about the Electoral College:

Why the Electoral College?


In 1787, the primary conflict between delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was over the process for electing the president. With dueling plans over either empowering Congress or a popular majority with the ability to elect the chief executive, the Founding Fathers ultimately settled on the Electoral College as a compromise.

Since inception, the Electoral College has been a quirk in the country's voting process -- a group of electors who reflect the distribution of power across the states, based on congressional representation.

The system was designed to both balance sectional interests between the north and south -- a divide that "mapped" the slavery issue -- and to shield the separation of powers by not giving Congress outsize influence over the presidency, said Richard Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at New York University and an expert on election law.

"Southerners wouldn't stand for direct popular election of the president because slave states would get no credit for their human chattel," wrote Akhil Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, in his book, "The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era."

The indirect pathway to the presidency also insulated the choice for the president from the throes of "factions," which James Madison warned against in the "Federalist Papers" as a group he viewed as "united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." And in the absence of "national familiarity" with potential picks, the mechanism thwarted concerns among the founders over 18th Century voters not knowing much about the candidates, Pildes said.

The system, the framers decided, was a middle ground between electing the president by Congress and by a popular vote, and would be a quadrennial institution of electors that only met in their individual states, making "it harder to corrupt the process," Pildes said, as some feared foreign interference.

Who are the electors?


Every four years, both political parties choose their electors in the months before the election to cast votes at a meeting set for the "Monday after the second Wednesday in December of presidential election years," which falls on Dec. 14 this year, according to federal law.

The electors meet in each of their respective states and the nation's capital to cast separate ballots for president and vice president at places determined by the state legislature. The candidates who receive a majority of the vote are formally elected to the White House.

The process for choosing the electors varies by state, with some nominating their electors at party conventions, while others leave it to voters to elect them during the primary process.

"We have no uniform national system for appointing Electors, which means the legislatures do not have to consult the public at all," wrote James W. Ceaser, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., for the National Constitution Center.

The electors, who are often prominent figures in each party, are of symbolic import. In 2016, former President Bill Clinton was an elector from New York. This year, Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia State House, will be an elector for the Democratic Party in that state, and Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager, is an elector for the Republican Party in New Hampshire.

How does the Electoral College work?


The president is elected by a college of 538 electors and it takes 270 votes to win.

The number of electors apportioned to states is based on population -- mirroring each state's congressional representation with one electoral vote for each U.S. senator and representative. There is a minimum of three electors per state and the District of Columbia.

In 48 states, plus the nation's capital, electoral votes are awarded using a winner-take-all system, but Maine and Nebraska are different, allowing electoral votes to be split. These two states award one electoral vote to the winner in each congressional district -- with Maine having two and Nebraska having three -- and the remaining two electoral votes are allotted to the statewide winner.

The electors are mostly "conduits for the popular vote in their state," with the December meeting largely being a formality, Pildes said.

Some can break their pledge to vote for their party's nominee, as seven did in 2016, but this has "happened very, very few times in our history," he continued.

The Supreme Court ruled on the "faithless electors" case in July, making it constitutionally permissible to bind electors to vote for the popular vote winner.

Thirty-three states, and D.C., require electors to keep their pledge. In at least five states, penalties exist for defiant votes, while over a dozen states cancel and replace the rogue elector. More laws are likely to be enacted over the coming years to require electors to follow the popular vote, Pildes added.

What happens if there is a tie?


The system has not been without its kinks, particularly in its earliest years.

Before 1804, the second-place finisher became the vice president. A key change emerged after the election of 1800, when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson. The vote tally produced a tie between Jefferson and his vice presidential running mate, Aaron Burr, leaving the election up to the House of Representatives to break the tie.

A fierce political campaign ensued with members of the House weighing the lesser of two evils: many Federalists viewed Jefferson as a "principal foe," according to the National Archives, while Burr was seen as nothing more than ambitious. Led by Alexander Hamilton, the House awarded Jefferson the highest office in the land on the 36th ballot and Burr became his No. 2.

In the aftermath of the messy contest, the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804 and separated the votes for president and vice president to avoid a similar outcome.

"It was destabilizing to automatically place the president's biggest and perhaps fiercest political rival in the position of number two, a heartbeat away from the top," Amar wrote in his book. "The effect of the change, however, to redefine the relationship between American's top two officers -- quelling the animosity once built into the system."

Throughout the country's history, there have been only three "contingent elections" similar to the 1800 race.

If no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, or in the case of a tie, in which each candidate gets 269 electoral votes, the election moves to the House to select the next president under the 12th Amendment. The House only votes from among the top three vote getters.

Each state has a single vote in the House -- giving the party with greater representation in more delegations the upper hand. Under federal law, the process, which has only taken place twice in U.S. history, would play out in early January 2021, ahead of the inauguration.

Republicans currently control 26 delegations, while Democrats hold 22, with one state, Pennsylvania, being evenly split between both parties. But it's the new Congress, which will be elected in November, that determines the all-important vote.

Democrats control the delegations of several competitive presidential battleground states -- such as Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada -- by a single seat, while Republicans have a single-seat advantage in Florida.

A presidential candidate needs a majority -- 26 votes -- to win.

The decision for any contested vice president is settled in the Senate, which was the case in the third contingent election in 1837, with each senator casting a single vote. In the upper chamber, a candidate must earn 51 votes to succeed.

If the House remains deadlocked by the inauguration, the vice president-elect will serve as acting president until the House picks a new commander-in-chief.

Can a president lose the popular vote but still win the election?


Four years ago, Trump emerged as the winner of the Electoral College, 304-227, despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton -- an outcome that has only occurred in five presidential elections: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.

In 2016, Trump's thinnest margin of victory was in Michigan -- just under 11,000 votes -- yet he won all 16 of the state's electoral votes, and ultimately, the White House.

In the contested election of 2000, which involved an infamous Supreme Court decision over Florida's votes, George W. Bush prevailed by winning the Electoral College, 271-266, over Al Gore, who won the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes.

With a winner-take-all apparatus in most states, the results of the Electoral College and the will of the plurality of voters across the country have at times diverged -- fueling calls for the entire system to be replaced.

Will the Electoral College last?


Over the last 200 years, more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College, according to the National Archives, without any succeeding.

The closest Congress came to dismantling the Electoral College occurred in the late 1960s-early 1970s, when the House decisively passed an amendment to abolish the system -- the only time a chamber of Congress approved such an amendment. But it died in the Senate after being filibustered by a group of lawmakers from southern states.

Last year, throughout the competitive Democratic primary that ultimately crowned former Vice President Joe Biden the winner, some of the more progressive contenders made scrapping the Electoral College a plank of their campaign platform.

"My view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in March 2019.

Similar to Warren, some view the Electoral College as "an artifact of a different time that should change," Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore, said last month.

More than three-fifths of the country, 61%, support replacing the Electoral College with a popular vote system, a Gallup poll found in September, but there are fissures starkly along partisan lines. Democrats are nearly four times as likely as Republicans to back shifting to an election decided by a popular vote.

For a few decades before the 2016 election, most viewed the Electoral College as tending to favor Democrats, Pildes said, but in the aftermath of the last presidential contest, the system is now seen as advantaging Republicans.

"That was partly because the Democrats supposedly had this 'blue wall' of these states that they were just going to win in every election that ran through the Midwest," Pildes said. "As we saw in 2016, once that blue wall could be broken, the view has moved."

Eliminating the Electoral College entirely would be an arduous endeavor since it is hard-wired into the Constitution and would require a constitutional amendment, which involves approval from either two-thirds of both chambers of Congress or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states.

The other route would be altering the existing framework, without changing the Constitution.

At least two pathways for reform include states modifying their individual laws for allocating electors -- for example, moving to a proportional basis -- or states signing onto the national popular vote interstate compact.

The latter is a state-based effort that seeks to get enough jurisdictions to enact a bill that pledges electoral votes to whomever wins the popular vote nationally. At least 16 states, home to 196 electoral votes, have joined the compact. The bill won't take effect until the states reach 270 electoral votes.

"The Electoral College is now kind of out of keeping with contemporary views about what democracy should mean. I think we're the only major democracy that elects its chief executive in this indirect way," Pildes said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesBy CHEYENNE HASLETT and ADAM KELSEY, ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- After the second presidential debate was canceled following President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization, both he and Democratic nominee Joe Biden returned to the stage Thursday night for their final opportunity to draw direct contrasts with one another before Election Day.

For 90 relatively-civil minutes, the pair sparred over a range of topics including the pandemic, health care, election security, immigration, their personal financial entanglements and climate change, among other things, guided by moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News.

The closing arguments arrived, however, on a day in which the number of early votes cast this year eclipsed the number of early votes total in 2016 -- with still 12 days to go until Election Day. Over 48.5 million Americans have already voted, which leaves a winnowing group of persuadable individuals for Trump and Biden to win over.

Though there was some doubt about whether the event would take place after Trump repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debate's attempt to hold a virtual second debate prior to its eventual cancelation -- and later their decision to mute the candidates' microphones during portions of Thursday's discussion -- the debate moved forward without delay and largely absent of the repeated interruptions that marred the first.

Here are five key takeaways from the final presidential debate:

Microphone-muting and moderation prove effective

As it turns out, when only one person can be heard at a time, only one person speaks at a time -- and the nation has a much better chance of hearing that one person speak.

The mics, which were muted for two minutes at a time while each candidate gave his opening response to debate questions, created a much more substantive debate that was far easier to follow than the first, in which Trump interrupted around 70 times and Biden was consistently thrown off track.

At the beginning, the president reigned in his disruptive behavior. During a discussion on opening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic -- which Trump advocates strongly for, often regardless of case counts -- the president asked Welker if he could respond to Biden.

"Please. Then I have a follow-up," Welker said.

"Thank you. And I appreciate that," Trump said.

"And by the way, so far, I respect very much the way you're handling this, I have to say," he said about 40 minutes later.

In the end, however, the president's behavior changed, and he went back to interrupting both Biden and the moderator.

Biden was also more focused than at the first debate, and directly demanded that Trump release his tax returns

That didn't mean discussions didn't disintegrate into overtalking, interrupting, awkward quips and hits below the belt on health care, children separated at the border and minimum wage, but Welker largely kept the two men on track and pushed through a series of key topics that yielded substantial answers from each candidate.

Biden lays out forward-looking coronavirus plan, Trump re-litigates his past


The two candidates began the debate by laying out the biggest, most prominent contrast between their visions for the country's most pressing crisis: the coronavirus. It was also a big portion of the last debate, unsurprisingly, and it's the foundation of the 2020 campaign, which has become a referendum on Trump's handling of the virus.

Trump said life must go on despite the virus, used his own coronavirus diagnosis as an example and promised a vaccine on an earlier timeline than experts have offered.

"I say we're learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can't lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does," Trump said.

Biden said life can't go on until we stop the virus, and did not let viewers forget who was in charge while 220,000 people died from the virus.

"No. 1, he says that we're, you know, we're learning to live with it," Biden said of Trump and the coronavirus. "People are learning to die with it."

Trump's argument consistently painted a picture of an America that had done its best against the virus and had to uphold the economy, despite a rising death toll and 70,000 cases per day.

"Excuse me, I take, I take full responsibility. It's not my fault that it came here. It's China's fault. And you know what? It's not Joe's fault that it came here either. It's China's fault," Trump insisted.

The president listed off the actions he has taken against the coronavirus, like closing down partial travel from China in January and making PPE and ventilators available around the country.

Biden criticized Trump for allowing the U.S. to become the hardest-hit nation in the world and laid out his plan: a national mask mandate, more rapid tests, federal standards for reopening and funding for small businesses and schools to adhere to public health guidelines.

"You folks home who have an empty chair at the kitchen table this morning, that man and wife going to bed and reaching over to try to touch out of habit where their wife or husband was is gone. Learning to live with it? Come on. We're dying with it," Biden said.

Financial entanglements, corruption allegations threaten to overshadow issues

Following the lead section on the pandemic, Welker attempted to navigate the candidates toward national security. However, upon the first mention of foreign adversaries -- in a question about Iranian and Russian interference in the election -- each took the opportunity to level accusations of corruption.

Trump shared misleading claims that the Biden family received improper payments from Russian associates and referred to unsubstantiated allegations that the former vice president's son, Hunter Biden, attempted to profit off access to his father.

"I think you owe an explanation to the American people," Trump goaded.

Biden highlighted reports that Trump paid little or nothing in federal income taxes for years leading up to, and during the start of, his presidency. Biden then said he has released his own tax returns because they show no impropriety, and questioned why the president still hasn't released his.

"Go look at them: 22 years of my tax returns," Biden said. "You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return. What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?"

But while the disputes over entanglements and ethics carried on for well over 10 minutes, the audience on social media noted that it was time lost for conversations on issues more impactful upon the average American. The extended exchange arrived before conversations about health care, climate change and immigration -- something viewers noted was a potential disservice to casual political observers seeking more substance.

While a candidate's character will likely always register as a consideration for voters, in the midst of the pandemic, with COVID-19 cases again rising and an unstable economy threatening the livelihoods of millions of Americans, continued focus on the uncorroborated claims against Biden may rob some of the issue-based information they need to make an educated choice.

Biden redirects Trump claims that would better fit a more progressive opponent

Trump claimed Biden wants to ban fracking and supports Medicare for All.

Biden, who blatantly said he doesn't oppose fracking (to the dismay of progressive voters), and who supports improvements to Obamacare over an overhaul of the system (also to the disappointment of further-left Democrats), told Trump he was confused.

"He's a very confused guy. He thinks he's running against somebody else. He's running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them. Joe Biden, he's running against," Biden said, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other more progressive Democrats who ran in the primaries on platforms including the Green New Deal and government-run health care that would eventually do away with private options.

It's a distinction Biden has continued to make, a calculated call that progressive Democrats are so invested in ousting Trump that they will settle for a moderate Democrat and still turn out to vote, while undecided voters may be convinced by a more middle-of-the-road approach.

As the final debate question, Biden was asked what he'd say at his inaugural speech if he wins the presidency. In his response, Biden highlighted his devotion to all Americans, including those who don't vote for him.

"I will say I'm an American president," Biden said. "I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I'm going to make sure you're represented. I'm going to give you hope."

Candidates offer stark health care contrast

With a Supreme Court case threatening to overturn the Affordable Care Act looming on the high court's docket, and Judge Amy Coney Barrett -- who could cast the deciding vote on the suit -- heading toward confirmation, the future of the nation's health care system will be among the top agenda items, regardless of who wins the election.

So when the debate turned to health care -- the issue 2018 voters rated as the most important -- both Trump and Biden delivered pitches likely to trail them as Americans gauge the winner's promise-keeping.

Trump touted his administration's effort to roll back the ACA's individual insurance mandate and labeled the act as a whole "no good," despite pledging to protect its popular coverage guarantees for people with preexisting conditions. He then falsely accused Biden of wanting to eliminate private insurance -- attempting to link him to the universal, single-payer proposals offered by other Democrats.

Instead, Biden noted that his plan maintains private insurance and builds upon the ACA, by offering a public health care option.

"It'll become Bidencare," the former vice president said. "Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan."

Trump spent much of the 2016 campaign stating he would "repeal and replace" Obamacare. But for now -- and until the potential Supreme Court decision -- the repeal has fallen flat and a potential replacement failed in the Senate.

The president has also spent much of his tenure in the White House pledging a new health care plan, but has yet to offer concrete details, leaving voters with the choice to either embrace and expand the signature accomplishment of Trump's predecessor or be willing to follow him down a path of unknowns.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy KENDALL KARSON and WILL STEAKIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Marcelo Montesinos voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 because he said he saw "a man who would bring a lot of change."

Four years later, after losing a family member to the coronavirus, Montesinos, 72, is one of many seniors who now say they can no longer support the president because of his handling of the pandemic.

"He knew everything all the way back in February and he didn't take the precautions ... he didn't believe in science. He doesn't believe in doctors," Montesinos said. "He always tries to blame somebody else, like a little kid."

Montesinos, who is from West Palm Beach, Florida, said he still plans to vote for Republicans in other races.

"It hurt me so much" to hear the president recently dismiss the pandemic by saying Americans were "pandemic-ed out," Montesinos added. "He was going to be the best president the U.S. ever had if he had taken care of the coronavirus."

Trump is attempting a repeat of his first victory by banding together a base that's still mostly white, largely male, less educated and older.

Underpinning Trump's success in 2016 was, in part, an army of seniors that made up a large slice of the electorate and backed him by 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, according to national exit poll data. Older voters are among the most likely to vote and have sided with Republican nominees in every presidential election since 2004, reinforcing Trump four years ago and helping tilt key battleground states in his favor.

But this cycle, former Vice President Joe Biden is cutting into Trump's coalition, making significant gains with older voters across the U.S., particularly in must-win states for Trump. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found the two men running even among likely voters 65 and older nationally -- 48% to 49%.

In Florida and North Carolina, two states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and considered crucial for him to win in 2020, the president's advantage over Biden with seniors is slightly better than his national standing but still well short of his margins over Clinton.

Trump leads Biden by 8 points in Florida and 10 points in North Carolina among likely voters over 65, according to a pair of ABC News/Washington Post polls -- margins slashed by roughly half compared to 2016 when he carried this demographic by 17 points and 23 points, respectively, in the two states.

Trump campaign aides have grown weary of the president's declining support among older Americans, a group they know is critical to his reelection chances, especially in states like Florida and North Carolina, sources told ABC News. Perhaps the most telling sign of concern in Trump circles over seniors is the president's campaign schedule, with a rally set for Friday in The Villages, a sprawling mecca for retirees in a conservative pocket of central Florida.

"With the President at the helm," Trump campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso said in a statement, "seniors can rest assured their voice will be heard in Washington."

In follow-up interviews with more than a dozen independent and Republican voters over 65 who participated in recent ABC News/Washington Post polls in Florida and North Carolina, including some who voted for Trump in 2016, most said they're repelled by the president after four years. His fumbled response to the pandemic and derogatory rhetoric outweigh his much-touted economic gains, the voters said.

'Trump just wants to get reelected'

"It was a really hard decision to make. From an economic perspective, I would be better served by President Trump," said Cindy Cook, an independent voter in North Carolina. "I have trouble respecting President Trump. I find him to be offensive to many people. ... He takes advantage of people -- [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is one of them."

The 68-year old from Durham, where Biden stopped last weekend for a campaign event, voted a mixed ballot, she said, but at the top of the ticket she chose Trump's rival.

Al, a Republican living in Broward County who is now voting for Biden after backing Trump in 2016, said he took particular issue with how Trump has targeted Fauci, the country's leading expert on infectious diseases, amid the pandemic.

"No reason for it. [Trump's] wrong. Fauci knows what's going on. Trump just wants to get reelected and make everything he does terrific, but he hasn't done anything," he said.

The president has ramped up attacks on Fauci in the final days before the election, blasting the leading member of his own coronavirus task force at rallies and as a "disaster" on a recent all-staff campaign call.

"I believe Fauci. I don't believe anything Trump says unless somebody of substantial means can verify it. Because he just lies all the time," said Al, who noted that while he's supporting the Democratic nominee this election he will still be "a Republican now and a Republican after Trump."

A path to victory for the president runs through the Sunshine state. In 2016, Trump won Florida by just over 100,000 votes, after Florida voted for Barack Obama twice, solidifying its reputation as a swing state.

Trump's path to victory also winds through North Carolina -- a bellwether known for split-ticket voting after electing both Trump and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2016 -- where changing demographics and polarization between urban and rural areas have helped maintain the state's purple hue.

It's a state that got behind Obama only once in 2008. In 2016, Trump edged out Clinton by fewer than 4 percentage points, offsetting Democrats' strength in the cities and suburbs by running up the score in whiter, more rural stretches.

Arlie Thompson of exurban Union County, North Carolina, outside of Charlotte, told ABC News he's voting for Biden, believing Trump's response to the defining crisis of his first term eclipsed any progress made with an economy he inherited from Obama.

"He certainly dealt himself a blow by not dealing with the pandemic like he should have," said Thompson, 77. "The economy is a mess now."

Voters turned off by age-old attacks

Throughout the election, Trump and his campaign have made targeting Biden, who turns 78 shortly after Election Day and would be the oldest sitting president if elected, as mentally inept and merely a feeble puppet of the "radical left."

Trump has relentlessly attacked Biden as mentally "shot," mocked his memory, and used campaign gaffes to paint the former vice president to be in mental decline -- efforts that have turned off some older voters.

Trump, 74, is only three years younger than Biden.

"With my age, of course I get insulted," said Olive Norwell, 93, when asked about the president targeting Biden's age and mental health.

Norwell, an independent who's voting for Biden from Vero Beach, Florida, a ruby red area along the eastern shore, added, "but [Trump] himself is 74 -- he's not that far behind."

Days after testing positive for coronavirus, and with polls showing his support among older Americans slipping, Trump released a video targeting seniors that looked to reassure them the pandemic was under control. The president called seniors "my favorite people in the world," even casting himself as one.

Just hours later, though, the president posted an edited photo mocking Biden by depicting him in what appears to be a nursing home, sitting in a wheelchair, with the "P" in the former vice president's campaign logo crossed out to read, "Biden for Resident."

"It's the pot calling the kettle black," said Rick, 76, a Biden supporter from Wake County, a Democratic stronghold in North Carolina that contains Raleigh and its suburbs, and boasts the highest population of any county between the two Carolinas.

"President Trump is the same age I am," said Dianne Wilkes, 74, who lives in Raleigh. "Those remarks that he's making, it's showing discrimination. ... It's not going to help him one iota."

"[Voters] also are going to be looking at how he's handled and what he says about COVID-19 and the ludicrous remarks that are not scientifically-based," she continued. "I think he shot himself in the foot."

Wilkes, a more than 50-year independent voter who backed Clinton in 2016, said she's voting for Biden. She's also supporting Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, saying she changed her mind about Cal Cunningham, Tillis' Democratic challenger and an Army veteran, after his extramarital relationship was revealed earlier this month.

Biden tests Trump's grip on seniors

With an opportunity to peel off some of Trump's base, the Biden campaign has made a concerted effort to court seniors, both in their advertising strategy and travel itinerary. His team has been running multiple ads in battleground states casting the former vice president as the true protector of Medicare and Social Security, and he made multiple trips to Florida in October.

The candidate's most recent visit to Florida focused almost entirely on his pitch to seniors, hitting heavily Democratic Broward County and honing in on Trump's declaration at a recent campaign rally that COVID-19 affects "virtually nobody," mostly "elderly people with heart problems and other problems."

"He was talking about seniors. He was talking about you," Biden said, speaking at a senior center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. "You deserve respect and peace of mind, but you're not getting it because to Donald Trump, you're expendable. You're forgettable."

In Johnston County, North Carolina, which is considered Trump country having voted for the president by 30 points four years ago, one voter is still uncommitted, vacillating between Trump, who he supported before, or Biden.

"I think Joe fits the mold of a person I would most likely want to see as a leader," Dan, 77, who declined to give his last name, said. "Trump makes a lot of smoke."

Asked if the election were held today and he had to choose, he said, "I'd vote for Joe."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



ABC NewsBy ZOHREEN SHAH and JON SCHLOSBERG, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) -- Senior citizen support, something that helped President Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016, is now far from a sure thing for him, as many seniors are choosing to support Joe Biden instead.

Trump led with the group by nine points in 2016, but is now trailing with the group by 27 points -- even in conservative corners of the country -- according to polling data.

Senior citizens like Tom Moran say the president has inspired him to become an activist in recent weeks. The 65-year-old is unable to work as a school bus driver because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now making it his mission to drive himself and his message across the country.

Moran drove thousands of miles to attend the vice presidential debate in Utah, and the presidential debate this week in Tennessee. At the latest, he held up a large banner that read, "220,000 DEAD. COVID-19. TRUMP FAILED US."

The Michigan resident will tell anyone who will listen that being away from his grandchildren this long didn't have to happen.

"They're 1 and 3," he said of his grandchildren. "My wife and I haven't seen them in six months. For a 1-year old, that's half of his life. President Trump has given up on the virus. He's quit. He's a failed president."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 164,000 Americans who died from the virus are senior citizens. Those numbers may be influencing how red regions, like Sun City, in Arizona, (an affluent 40,000-person retirement community which is now showing major cracks) are voting. Recent polls have Biden neck and neck with Trump among seniors in the state.

Former Vietnam veteran and lifelong Republican Ben Harold said he'll vote Democratic for the first time, in this election.

"The Republican Party left me once I saw what Trump was doing. I could no longer support him," Harold said.

Harold now supports his local Democratic club, a group whose membership has tripled in size since Trump took office.

"It's his policies," said club president Marsha McGovern.

She added that the president's polls plunged as people got sick.

"Two of my neighbors... were admitted to the hospital and then both died. And I think that just made us wake up and realize it doesn't matter what he says," McGovern said of Trump.

In The Villages, a retirement community in one of the most conservative pockets of battleground Florida, some seniors still firmly support Trump, while others are backing Biden.

"He's running this country like a business, and before the COVID came in, everything was right on target, and everything was great. And I feel as though he'll bring us back after this," said resident Cathy Slattery.

Al Meyer, another resident, said, "I think people are taking the opinion that they have the smarts to make a decision on what they want to do in order to protect their health. So I think the president has done a good job in that regard."

Seniors make up 82% of coronavirus deaths in Florida and about 78% nationwide. And while many voters are still undecided, recent polls show Biden is winning over seniors in the Sunshine State.

"We haven't gone out to sit in a restaurant since March. We stay pretty much at home. We stay with people we know," said resident David Grimes, a Biden supporter. "This is an administration that seems to say one thing and do something else. They say they value life, but they don't value elder life."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, ADIA ROBINSON and LAUREN KING, ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, faced off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday night, marking the candidates’ last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

The stakes were high: Trump needed to make his case as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. At the same time, Biden had a platform to solidify his lead and avoid any major mistakes with Election Day just 12 days away.

Biden spent the week hunkered down in Wilmington, Delaware, to prepare -- what he's done before other debates -- while Trump had seemingly done less to prepare, telling reporters on Wednesday, "I do prep, I do prep," without elaborating. Earlier this week Trump said that answering journalists' questions is the best kind of preparation.

Thursday's debate was supposed to be the candidates' third matchup but is instead the second of only two presidential debates this election. Trump refused to participate in the second debate when it was moved to a virtual format following his COVID-19 diagnosis. The candidates ultimately participated in dueling town halls instead.

Here's how the evening unfolded Thursday. All times Eastern:

Oct 23, 12:49 am
Fact check: Trump wrong on COVID-19 mortality rates


TRUMP'S CLAIM: Trump said that "the mortality rate is down 85%" for COVID-19 in the United States, and that "the excess mortality rate is way down, and much lower than almost any other country."
 
FACT CHECK: Although Trump was correct to assert that death rates have fallen significantly since the spring, they are not down by 85%, but rather 62% -- and they are currently trending up again nationwide.
 
According to public health experts, much of that decline can be attributed to greater testing, better treatment protocols and to a larger number of younger people -- rather than older people -- becoming infected with COVID-19.
 
Meanwhile, "excess mortality" is an estimate of how many more people are dying than during a normal year, or other time period. It is incorrect to refer to the rate as "way down," since it is estimated that in the United States, there have been many more excess deaths compared to last year.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday 299,028 more people had died in the United States from late January to early October than would be expected in a typical year. It attributed 66% of those excess deaths, or 198,081, to COVID-19.
 
According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "The US has experienced more deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than any other country and has one of the highest cumulative per capita death rates."
 
Analyzing the number of deaths per 100,000 people attributed to the pandemic, the U.S. had 60.3 deaths per 100,000 people. That was higher than Germany (11.3), Canada (24.6) and France (46.6), but lower than Belgium (86.8) and the United Kingdom (62.6), according to the report.

Oct 23, 12:48 am
Fact check: Trump left out significant detail when saying 2.2 million Americans were initially expected to die from COVID-19


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "So as you know, 2.2 million people modelled out were expected to die."
 
FACT CHECK: It is true that, in the spring, one early model predicted more than 2 million deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, although the model said the death toll would only be that high if no attempts were made to control the pandemic.
 
During a March 29 White House coronavirus task force press briefing, Trump and White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that models showed up to 2.2 million people could die from COVID-19 in the United States "if we did nothing," as the president put it.
 
This was an estimate of potential deaths if neither the government, nor individuals, choose to alter their behavior, despite the pandemic.

The prediction may have been drawn from a model by Neil Ferguson, an epidemiology professor at Imperial College London, which found that an "unmitigated epidemic," could result in "2.2 million (deaths) in the US."

Oct 23, 12:16 am
Final candidate speaking times


After over 90 minutes on the final presidential debate stage, below is ABC’s calculation of the candidates' approximate speaking times:

Trump: 40:36
Biden: 39:24

Here's the time spent on each individual topic including moderator speaking time:

COVID-19: 20:32
National security: 19:55
American families: 21:12
Race in America: 14:02
Climate change: 11:28
Leadership: 4:49

Oct 23, 12:03 am
Fact Check: US exports more energy than imports, but not completely energy independent, despite Trump claim


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "We are energy independent for the first time."
 
FACT CHECK: The U.S. exports more energy products like oil and liquid natural gas than it imports, but many parts of the country still rely on oil from other countries.
 
But the U.S. is not fully energy independent.

The amount of oil produced in the U.S. is about 1.25 million barrels a day short of demand, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and while imports are at a record low, the country still relies on imported products for 3% of domestic petroleum consumption.
 
One of Trump's goals has been to make the U.S. energy independent, in part by expanding oil and gas drilling around the country including on public lands.

Last year, U.S. energy exports surpassed imports for the first time since 1952, largely due to increases in natural gas production.

Oct 22, 11:59 pm
Fact check: Trump falsely accuses Biden of calling Black Americans 'super predators'


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "He's been in government 47 years. He never did a thing, except in 1994, when he did such harm to the Black community. And they were called, and he called them 'super predators.' And he said that. He said it, 'super predators.' And they have never lived that down."
 
FACT CHECK: It was then-first lady Hillary Clinton who used the phrase "super predators" in 1996, while expressing her support for the 1994 crime bill.
 
Both former Biden and Trump have made past references to Americans being "predators."

In a speech from on the floor of the Senate in 1993, Biden said, "We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created." He added, "They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale, and it's a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society."
 
Trump, in his 2000 book The America We Deserve, wrote several times about "predators."
 
"The perpetrator is never a victim," Trump wrote. "He's nothing more than a predator, and there can be no excuses made for killing old ladies, beating old men, or shooting adolescents."
 
Trump added: "If I were in charge of things, life would be even tougher for these predators. If there was a situation in New York like that terrible dragging death in Texas, I'd not only put the perpetrators to death, I'd find some way to make them an example to others."
 
Oct 22, 11:51 pm
Fact check: Trump's uses false facts to defend family separations


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "The children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they're brought here and they used to use them to get into our country." // "They built cages. You know, they used to say I built the cages." // "They are so well taken care of. They are in facilities that are so clean."
 
FACT CHECK: Trump was defending his now-defunct policy known as "zero tolerance" that required every adult who crossed the border illegally -- even those traveling with their children -- be detained in a bid to deter border crossings.
 
The result was that thousands of children were separated from their parents in a matter of weeks. It was a major departure from past U.S. policy. In the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, families were separated in rare instances, such as cases of serious crimes like drug trafficking.

Critics of Trump's policy questioned the conditions the kids were kept in initially at border stations after several died of the flu.
 
An internal investigation later found that the administration struggled to keep track of the parents, many of whom had been deported. The White House says the parents were contacted and abandoned the children, who were placed with U.S. sponsors, usually family members. The American Civil Liberties Union countered that parents have not been found and contacted and therefore could not give up rights to their children.
 
Homeland security officials have said that "coyotes" are often used to transport the families for a fee. But there has not been widespread evidence of cases of people falsely presenting themselves as related, with border patrol documenting them as "family units.

Trump's suggestion that "cages" were built by the Obama administration is correct. Obama had faced an influx of children both traveling alone and with families as a result of violence in Central America. And at one point, the Obama administration tried housing the families in special detention centers.
 
But after a federal judge in California ruled that the arrangement violated a long-standing agreement barring kids from jail-like settings for extended periods, even with their parents, the government began releasing families into the U.S. pending notification of their next court date.

Oct 22, 11:43 pm
Fack check: Trump claims Hunter Biden received $3.5M from Russia, money that went to a firm with which Hunter Biden denies association


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "Joe got $3.5 million from Russia, and it came through Putin because he was very friendly with the former mayor of Moscow, and it was the mayor of Moscow's wife. And you got $3.5 million. Your family got $3.5 million. And, you know, some day you're going to have to explain why did you get $3.5 [million]."
 
FACT CHECK: In September, Senate Republicans unveiled the findings of their highly controversial investigation into the foreign business dealings of Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden -- and specifically whether those endeavors ever influenced U.S. foreign policy.
 
As part of their report, Republicans highlighted an alleged $3.5 million wire transfer sent from Elena Baturina, the billionaire wife of the former mayor of Moscow, to a bank account tied to Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC, a consultant group that the committee said was co-founded by Hunter Biden.
 
George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, dismissed the claim outright as "false," adding that Hunter Biden "had no interest in and was not a 'co-founder' of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false."
 
Hunter Biden was involved with Rosemont Seneca Partners -- not Rosemont Seneca Thornton, as the Senate Republicans claimed. The two are separate entities, according to Mesires.
 
Politico reported last month that Trump also sought to engage Baturina's husband, the former Moscow mayor, for business opportunities prior to his time in office.

Oct 22, 11:36 pm
Fact check: Biden says he doesn't think Trump hasn’t spoken to Putin about election meddling, but Trump has brought it up


BIDEN'S CLAIM: "And to the best of my knowledge, I don't think the president has said anything to Putin about (election meddling). I don't think he's talking to him a lot. I don't think he said a word. I don't know why he hasn't said a word to Putin about it."
 
FACT CHECK: A smirking Trump, under pressure from members of Congress and his own intelligence community, did in fact tell Russian President Vladimir Putin at the "Group of 20" countries summit last year not to interfere in the 2020 election.
 
But Trump delivered the warning in a very casual way, playfully wagging his finger at Putin without making eye contact with him, saying, "Don't meddle in the election please, don't meddle in the election."
 
Trump also pressed Putin in his first G-20 summit meeting on interference in the 2016 election after intelligence officials confirmed Russian involvement in manipulating the election, according to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
 
"The president opened the meeting by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in 2016 election. Putin denied such involvement, as he has done in the past," Tillerson said at the time.

Oct 22, 11:34 pm
Fact check: Trump falsely claims COVID-19 'spikes' in Florida, Texas and Arizona are gone


TRUMP'S CLAIM: When asked how he would lead the country during the next phase of the pandemic, Trump said that "there was a spike in Florida, and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas, it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Arizona, it's now gone. And there are some spikes and surges in other places. They will soon be gone."
 
FACT CHECK: Although cases did "spike" and reach record levels in Florida, Texas and Arizona earlier this summer, then steadily decreased for a few months, cases in all three states have been on the rise for the last several weeks.
 
Since Oct. 1, the seven-day average of new cases has doubled in Arizona, according to an ABC News analysis of COVID Tracking Project data, recording an average of 880 new cases a day.
 
In Texas, more than 6,000 cases were reported on Thursday, increasing by 37% in the last two weeks, and in Florida, the seven-day average is still hovering at 3,300 new coronavirus cases a day.

Additionally, nationally, cases are not in fact, going away.
 
New cases have been rising rapidly for the last five weeks.
 
Since Sept. 12, the seven-day average of new cases has surged by 77.5%. Just in the last 10 days, the U.S. has reported eight days with over 50,000 new cases reported, and on Thursday, the U.S. reported over 73,000 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily figure in nearly three months.

Oct 22, 11:31 pm
Fact check: Biden off on Trump's 'plan' that could defund Social Security


BIDEN CLAIM: "The idea that we're in a situation that is going to destroy Medicare, this is the guy that the actuary of Medicare said ... if, in fact, he continues to withhold -- his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023."
 
FACT CHECK: Biden’s claim is misleading on a number of fronts, but is rooted in an action Trump took and comments he made in August.
 
Trump signed an executive order in August that temporarily halted the collection of the payroll tax, a tax on wages split by workers and their employers. He subsequently asserted that he would like to permanently eliminate the tax.
 
In 2019, the tax financed 89% of Social Security. Workers and employers each contribute 6.2% of wages, while self-employed people pay the full 12.4%.
 
However, following Trump’s signing of the executive order, he has said publicly that he will draw from the government’s “general funds” to cover any lost funding for Social Security, a scenario the actuary accounted for in his response to the group of Democratic senators, telling them that the solvency of the program will be essentially unchanged if Trump follows through and actually proposes legislation akin to his public comments.
 
But since Trump issued his order, and despite Biden’s claims that Trump put forward a full-fledged “proposal,” Trump and the GOP have not unveiled more detailed legislation on how they would prevent the elimination of the payroll tax from impacting the financial security of Social Security.
 
In late August, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, Chris Van Hollen and Chuck Schumer sent a letter to the chief actuary of the Social Security program asking what the effect of eliminating the payroll tax would be. In response, the chief actuary said he was not aware of any “hypothetical legislation” that had been proposed. In simply responding to the scenario posed by Senate Democrats, he said the Social Security benefit program would be depleted of funds by 2023 if there's no additional stream of funding identified to offset eliminating of the payroll tax.
 
What Trump has not said thus far is what programs could potentially be impacted by the redirection of funds from the government's general fund, only that he will protect Social Security benefits. The general fund finances the operations of the U.S. government, such as recording "funds received and distributed by the Department of the Treasury," and it "includes assets held by government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and the Internal Revenue Service."

Oct 22, 11:17 pm
Fact check: Trump calls COVID-19 antibody treatment a 'cure.' It's not.


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "And I will tell you that I had something that they gave me, a therapeutic, I guess they would call it, some people could say it was a cure. But I was in for a short period of time and I got better very fast or I wouldn't be here tonight."
 
FACT CHECK: Trump also repeated something he has said before, praising the antibody treatment he received a "cure."
 
But as of yet, there is no known "cure" for the novel coronavirus.
 
The antibody cocktail given to the president -- made by biotech company Regeneron -- is thought to be promising, though still in its experimental phase.
 
Regeneron's experimental treatment is a cocktail of two synthetic, pharmaceutical versions of what occurs naturally in the body to fight off infection. Late last month, Regeneron published positive, yet preliminary data for its cocktail treatment showing it improved symptoms in patients without severe disease.
 
While the Food and Drug Administration has not yet authorized it, Trump was granted access to it under "compassionate use," enabling him to get it outside of a clinical trial.
 
A Regeneron spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that Trump's medical staff reached out to the company for permission to use its monoclonal cocktail, and that it was cleared with the FDA.

Oct 22, 11:12 pm
Fact check: Trump falsely claims that kids aren't transmitting virus to teachers


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "I want to open the schools. The transmittal rate to the teachers is very small."
 
FACT CHECK: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance to note a "body of evidence is growing" that kids "might play a role in transmission." Still, the role children play in community transmission is not yet fully understood.

In one recent study, the CDC found transmission is unclear: "Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings."
 
Schools haven't been studied as closely because many remain closed and not every school is reporting outbreaks. One concern is that children might be transmitting the virus without exhibiting symptoms, and testing people without symptoms remains limited.

Overall, officials say the lower transmission levels in a community, the less likely schools will spread the virus.

Oct 22, 10:59 pm
Fact Check: Trump overstates vaccine readiness timeline  


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "We have a vaccine that's coming. It's ready. It's going to be announced within weeks. And it's going to be delivered." ... "Johnson & Johnson is doing very well. Moderna is doing very well. Pfizer is doing very well. And we have numerous others."
 
FACT CHECK: A COVID-19 vaccine isn't ready right now. But it is true that two companies -- Pfizer and Moderna -- could seek emergency use authorization in November or December.
 
Like Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is also in late-stage studies, but Johnson & Johnson paused its trial earlier this month to investigate an unexplained illness.
 
As the chief adviser to the government vaccine distribution initiative Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Slaoui told ABC’s Bob Woodruff this week that if a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year approximately 20 million to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population. At first, only high priority Americans, like those over 65, will have access, but by the springtime more Americans should have access.
 
Slaoui said that vaccine trials are going as fast as it’s safe to go, pledging to resign if he felt undue pressure from the White House. Slaoui said that by June 2021, it's possible "everybody" in the United States could have been immunized.

-ABC News' Sony Salzman and Sasha Pezenik

Oct 22, 10:49 pm
Fact check: Trump misleads on fundraising

TRUMP'S CLAIM: “Joe, you have raised a lot of money, tremendous amounts of money and every time you raise money, deals are made, Joe. I could raise so much more money as president and as somebody that knows most of those people. I could call the heads of Wall Street, the heads of every company in America. I would blow away every record, but I don't want to do that because it puts me in a bad position.”
 
FACT CHECK: Trump targeted Biden for raising money for his campaign by claiming he could raise more but would be put in a “bad position” because he would owe donors something in return.
 
However, Trump himself regularly holds private, high-dollar fundraisers raking in millions of dollars and has raised over $1.5 billion so far this election cycle.
 
Just a week ago, the president attended a closed-door fundraiser at the home of Nicole and Palmer Luckey, an entrepreneur -- where tickets ranged from $2,800 up to $100,000 per person.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 22, 10:46 pm
Trump, Biden take last question of the debate on leadership

The last question of the night was on leadership and what Trump and Biden would say to the people who didn't vote for them on Inauguration Day.

Trump said that we would have to make the country "totally successful," and touted low unemployment numbers among all Americans before the pandemic.

"Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success," the president said. "But I'm cutting taxes, and he wants to raise everybody's taxes, and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you've never seen. Your 401(k)'s will go to hell, and it'll be a very, very sad day for this country."

Biden started his answer by saying that as an American president he would represent all Americans.

"Whether you voted for me or against me, and I'm going to make sure you're represented. I'm going to give you hope," he said.

"We're going to move," Biden added. "We're going to choose science over fiction. We're going to choose hope over fear. We're going to choose to move forward, because we have enormous opportunities -- enormous opportunities to make things better."

Oct 22, 10:42 pm
Fact check: Trump says he was told by DNI that both Iran and Russia want him to lose the election

TRUMP'S CLAIM: "Through John, who is -- John Ratcliffe, who is fantastic, DNI. He said the one thing that's common to both of them (Russia and Iran), they both want you to lose because there has been nobody tougher to Russia with -- between the sanctions. Nobody tougher than me on Russia."
 
FACT CHECK: While it is unclear whether Trump's director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, told him personally that Russia hopes he would lose the upcoming election, such a statement would contradict what the U.S. intelligence committee has determined.
 
In August, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessed "that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment.'” The office has never stated publicly that Russia hopes Biden will lose the upcoming election.
 
As for Iran, the office said it determined the country in its interference efforts "seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections."
 
Ratcliffe in a Wednesday evening news conference revealed both Iran and Russia recently obtained voter registration data in their efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, and that Iran was separately behind "a series of threatening emails that were found to be sent this week to Democratic voters," which he said was "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump."
 
But Democratic leaders have argued Ratcliffe may have inflated Iran's motivations relating to Trump and instead the country was seeking more broadly to sow chaos in the U.S. democratic process.
 
U.S. officials have also characterized to ABC News that Russia’s interference efforts both in 2016 and 2020 far exceed that of Iran’s in both scope and complexity.

-ABC News' Alexander Mallin

Oct 22, 10:41 pm
Trump vs. Biden on the issues: Climate change and the environment


Climate change -- a hot-button topic for years -- has taken on renewed significance ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with wildfires decimating the West, tropical storms pounding the Gulf Coast and year after year of record temperatures.

Both Trump and Biden largely toe their respective party lines when it comes to issues pertaining to environmental policy.

Throughout his presidency, Trump reversed many American commitments to mitigating climate change, most notably pulling out of the Paris Agreement, removing clean water protections and seeking to fast track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, such as drilling, fuel pipelines and wind farms.

Biden has countered the Trump administration's policies by promising to protect the environment with a proposed a $5 trillion plan.

Oct 22, 10:36 pm
Trump says he's the 'the least racist person,' Biden says crime bill support was 'a mistake'


Trump responded to a question on the impact of his language on racial conflict in the country by touting his work on criminal and prison reform as well as opportunity zones.

"It makes me sad, because I am, I am the least racist person," Trump said. "I can't even see the audience because it's so dark, but I don't care who's in the audience, I'm the least racist person in this room."

Biden responded by saying that the president "pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one."

When asked about his previous support for crime bills in the 1980s and 1990s, Biden said again that his support was "a mistake."

"I've been trying to change it since then, particularly the portion on cocaine," he said. "That's why I've been arguing that, in fact, we should not send anyone to jail for a pure drug offense. They should be going into treatment across the board."

Trump asked why Biden couldn't change those policies during his time as vice president.

"Why didn't you get it done? See? It's all talk, no action with these politicians," he said. "Why didn't he get it done? That's what I'm going to do when I become president -- you were vice president along with Obama as your president, your leader, for eight years. Why didn't you get it done?

Biden brought up the Obama administration's work to release 38,000 federal prisoners and grant clemency. After continuing pressing from Trump, Biden said they couldn't get more done because "we had a Republican congress."

Oct 22, 10:33 pm
As candidate tackle race in America, Trump tells Biden: ‘I ran because of you’


To open the section on race in America, Welker described "the talk" to the candidates -- when parents of color, regardless of class or income, prepare their children for the chance that they could be targeted by police for no reason other than the color of their skin -- giving the first question to Biden.

"I would like you to speak directly to these families," Welker said. "Do you understand why these parents fear for the children?"

"Yes, I do," said Biden. "The fact of the matter is there is institutional racism in America. We have always said, we've never lived up to it, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, all men and women are created equal. Guess what? We have never, ever lived up to it."

"We have to provide better economic opportunity, better education, better health care, better access to schooling, better access to borrow money to start businesses," Biden continued. "And I've laid out a clear plan as to how to do those things just to give people a shot. It's about accumulating the ability to have wealth as well as it is to be free from violence."

When the same question was posed to Trump, the president raised Biden's controversial 1994 crime bill and again said no one has done more for the Black community than Trump -- other than President Abraham Lincoln.

"Yes, I do," Trump said, before launching an attack on Biden. "And again, he's been in government 47 years. He never did a thing, except in 1994, when he did such harm to the Black community."

"Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I've done," he added.

Trump went on to rail against Biden for not making the changes he's pushing when he was in office and said he ran for office as a direct response to Obama and Biden.

"Joe, I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama. Because you did a poor job. If I thought you did a good job, I would have never run," Trump said. "I ran because of you."

Oct 22, 10:22 pm
'We're trying very hard' to find parents of 545 children: Trump

Trump said his administration is "trying very hard" to locate the 545 children whose parents can't be located after being separated from their parents. However, the president also said that some of the children were brought to the U.S. by "coyotes" and "cartels."

He then pivoted to say that the Obama administration built the detention centers where many migrants are held.

"They had a picture in a certain newspaper, there was a picture of these horrible cages. They said look at these cages. President Trump built them," Trump said. "Then it was determined they were built in 2014. That was him. They built cages."

In a fiery response, Biden emphasized that the children came to the U.S. with their parents.

"Coyotes didn't bring them over, Biden said. "Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents, and it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.

Welker asked about the Obama administration's failure to deliver on immigration reform. Biden said that it took too long to get the policy correct.

"It took too long to get it right. Took too long to get it right," he said. "I will be president of the United States, not vice president of the United States. And the fact is, I've made it very clear, within 100 days, I going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people and all of those so-called dreamers, those DACA kids, they are going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship."

Trump responded that Biden "had eight years to do what he said he was going to do."

Biden and Trump then went back and forth over the catch-and-release policy.

Oct 22, 10:15 pm
Fact check: Trump misstates Fauci's past comments on masks

TRUMP'S CLAIM: "Nobody knew where it was coming from, what it was. We've learned a lot. But Anthony said don't wear masks. Now he wants to wear masks."
 
FACT CHECK: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the country, and other public health experts initially told Americans not to wear surgical or N95 masks in the early days of what has become the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as Fauci and other top experts, initially discouraged wearing masks because of concerns that masks and other personal protective equipment were in short supply for health care workers who needed them. Public health officials were also concerned wearing masks could have unintended consequences if people touched their face more often to adjust them or fail to keep social distancing.
 
"There was this feeling that there would be a shortage just for those who really need them very early on," Fauci said in a recent interview. "That was the big deal. We didn't have enough PPE including masks. Then it became clear that cloth masks worked reasonably well. And therefore there was no more shortage. Then the different analyses, meta analyses and others came in that in fact, it does work."
 
In early April, the CDC changed its recommendation about face coverings for the general public, based on evidence that a significant number of people who were asymptomatic or not yet feeling sick were transmitting the virus.
 
Duke University researchers have also concluded that "if 95 percent of people wear cloth masks when within 6 feet of other people in public, it will reduce COVID-19 transmission by at least 30 percent."
 
Trump also said he thought Fauci was a Democrat, but Fauci is not registered as a member of any political party, according to D.C. voting records.

-ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs and Arielle Mitropoulos

Oct 22, 10:11 pm
Fact check: Trump says Biden called China travel restrictions 'xenophobic,' but that's not clear


TRUMP'S CLAIM: “When I closed, he said, 'This is a terrible thing. You're xenophobic.' I think he called me racist, even, and -- because I was closing it to China. Now, he says I should have closed it earlier. It just -- Joe, it doesn't work."

FACT CHECK: While Trump claimed that Biden opposed his decision to ban most travel from China at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic and that he called the restrictions "xenophobic," the former vice president did not explicitly weigh in on the decision when it was announced on Jan. 31. He did call the president xenophobic minutes after the partial travel ban was announced, but did not call Trump a racist for the decision.

During a campaign event that same day in Fort Madison, Iowa, Biden discussed the growing concern over the COVID-19 outbreak and cautioned that Trump should let science "lead the way."

"In moments like this, this is where the credibility of a president is most needed as he explains what we should and should not do," Biden told the crowd at the event. "This is no time for Donald Trump's record of hysterical xenophobia ... and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science."

The comments came just minutes after the White House announcement, so it was unclear if Biden was referring to the decision specifically, but the former vice president did tweet a similar sentiment the next day.

"We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus," Biden posted. "We need to lead the way with science -- not Donald Trump's record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency."

Throughout March, Biden used the word "xenophobic" in various speeches and tweets to criticize the president labeling COVID-19 as the "China virus."

Biden did acknowledge the travel restrictions put in place by the Trump administration in a March speech, noting they "may" slow the spread.

"Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we've seen, it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than risk will be counterproductive," Biden said.

Biden's campaign did not explicitly discuss the vice president's view of the ban until April.

"Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials and backed by a full strategy," Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN. "Science supported this ban, therefore he did too.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Oct 22, 10:10 pm
Trump blames Pelosi for stimulus limbo


Welker turned her attention to the lingering stimulus discussions in Congress and asked Trump why he hasn't helped the millions of Americans who haven fallen into poverty, particularly minorities and women.

Trump laid the blame on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"But you're the president," Welker contended.

"Nancy Pelosi does not want to approve it. We are ready, willing and able to do something," Trump said.

Biden, however, noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he can not pass the stimulus bill because he doesn't have the votes.

When asked how he would work differently, the vice president said the Democrats have been pushing to pass the bill for the months.

"Look, they passed this act all the way back in the beginning of the summer. This is like -- it's not new. It's been out there," Biden said.

Oct 22, 10:04 pm
Biden pitches 'Bidencare' as Trump slams the Affordable Care Act

Biden said if he is elected he would pass Obamacare with a public option, deeming it "Bidencare," and outlining his plan.

"If you qualify for Medicaid and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get Medicaid, you're automatically enrolled, providing competition for insurance companies," Biden said.

"Secondly, we're going to make sure we reduce the premiums and reduce drug prices by making sure that there's competition that doesn't exist now, by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the insurance companies," he said.

Biden said private insurance would be protected under his plan.

"Thirdly, the idea that I want to eliminate private insurance -- the reason why I had such a fight for -- with 20 candidates for the nomination, was I support private insurance," Biden said. "Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan, nor did they under Obamacare."

"Lastly, we're going to make sure we're in a situation that we actually protect pre-existing conditions. There's no way he can protect pre-existing conditions. None. Zero," Biden said, as the Trump administration seeks to dismantle the entire Affordable Care Act which currently protects them.

Trump said earlier, "I'd like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand-new beautiful health care."

Oct 22, 9:55 pm
Trump vs. Biden on the issues: Health


With unprecedented unemployment in the United States, where health care is inextricably linked to employment, and a coronavirus pandemic ravaging the globe, it's safe to say that on Nov. 3, health is on the ballot.

As it stands, more than 220,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. Another roughly 13 million are unemployed.

Health might be a political football in 2020, but it's also a deeply personal issue that affects every American voter. Given health's crucial significance this year, the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund polled 4,220 likely voters in battleground states between Aug. 25 and Sept. 20 on which health care issues mattered most to them, and which candidate -- Trump or Biden -- they thought would be more likely to address those health concerns.

Here's what the American public said about which health care issues they care about.

-ABC News' Erin Schumaker

Oct 22, 9:54 pm
Fact Check: Biden incorrectly attributes mask warning to Trump advisers

BIDEN'S CLAIM: "The expectation is we'll have another 200,000 Americans dead in the time between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks, the president's own advisers have told him, we could save 100,000 lives."
 
FACT CHECK: The president's advisers haven't used this estimate, though the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has strongly recommended wearing them. A modeling study by the University of Washington estimated at one point that if most Americans wore masks, it could save 100,000 lives by the end of the year. That estimate has been repeated by Tom Frieden, who led the CDC under President Barack Obama.
 
Dr. Robert Redfield, the current head of the CDC under Trump, has not made such a statement.
 
According to his office, he has said that the pandemic could begin to come under control in eight to 12 weeks "if all people living in America wore a face mask, were smart about social distancing and crowds, and practiced good hand hygiene."

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Oct 22, 9:54 pm
Trump attacks Biden for appealing to families after answer on China


Trump and Biden took questions on how to deal with China more broadly amid transparency concerns with the Chinese government. After Biden said he would make China “play by the international rules,” Trump touted $28 billion in subsidies given to farmers during his administration affected by the U.S.-China trade war.

“First of all, China is paying. They're paying billions and billions of dollars. I just gave $28 billion to our farmers,” Trump said, before Biden interrupted, “That’s taxpayers' money.”

Given a chance to respond, Biden turned to families at home.

“There's a reason why he's bringing up all this malarkey. There's a reason for it. He doesn't want to talk about the substantive issues. It's not about his family and my family. It's about your family and your family is hurting badly,” Biden said.

“Are we going to be able to pay the mortgage? Who's going to tell her she can't go back to community college? They're the decisions you're making in the middle-class families like I grew up in Scranton and Claymont. They're in trouble. We should be talking about your families, but that's the last thing he wants to talk about,” Biden added.

Trump scoffed at Biden's answers and took the chance to define himself as not another “typical politician.”

“That is a typical statement,” Trump responded. “That's a typical political statement. Let's get off this China thing. He looks at the family around the table, just a typical politician. I'm not a typical politician. That's why I got elected. Let's get off the subject of China. Let's talk around sitting around the table. Come on, Joe. You can do better.”

Oct 22, 9:45 pm
Biden says countries that interfere in American elections will 'pay a price'


Biden responded to reports that Russia and Iran obtained voter information as a part of an election disinformation campaign by saying that any country that interferes in American elections will "pay a price."

" They will pay a price. And it's been overwhelmingly clear, this election -- I won't even get into the last one -- this election, that Russia's been involved. China's been involved to some degree," he said.

"Now we learn that -- that Iran is involved. They will pay a price if I'm elected. They're interfering with American sovereignty," Biden added.

In a disturbing allegation, the FBI director and director of national intelligence announced Wednesday night that Russia and Iran have conducted counterintelligence operations secretly to obtain voter registration information about Americans, allowing them to directly reach out to voters in Florida and Alaska.

The director of national intelligence portrayed Trump as the victim of the attack, and did not mention Democratic voters that were targeted.

Biden went on to accuse Trump of being a "Russian pawn" and not speaking out for the country's actions.

"I don't understand why this president is unwilling to take on Putin when he's actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, when he's engaged in activities that are trying to destabilize all of NATO. I don't know why he doesn't do it, but it's worth asking the question," he said.

--John Verhovek

Oct 22, 9:43 pm
Fact check: Trump misleads when comparing COVID-19 pandemic to H1N1, Obama administration response


TRUMP'S CLAIM: "Frankly, (Biden) ran the H1N1, swine flu, and it was a total disaster, far less lethal, but it was a total disaster. Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now."
 
FACT CHECK: While Trump is correct that the H1N1 virus was much less lethal than COVID-19, it is misleading to call the Obama administration's response a "failure."
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates up to 575,000 lives were lost to the swine flu worldwide. Of those, fewer than 13,000 were American, due in part to the Obama administration's "complex, multi-faceted and long-term response," the CDC later wrote. Thus far, COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 210,000 Americans, a little over eight months since the first known case of the virus was discovered in the United States.
 
"The team, in my opinion, in 2009, really demonstrated that the planning was worth it. Nothing is ever perfect. But I felt just so impressed and so proud of the job CDC did in 2009," Dr. Julie Gerberding, a CDC director during the George W. Bush administration, told ABC News.

Oct 22, 9:38 pm
Trump says he's not 'knocking' Fauci


Before moving on to election security, Welker asked Trump about his recent public criticisms of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"President Trump, this week you called Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's best known infectious disease expert, quote, 'a disaster.' You described him and other medical experts as, quote, 'idiots'. If you're not listening to them, who are you listening to?" she asked.

"I'm listening to all of them, including Anthony," Trump said. "I get along very well with Anthony, but he did say don't wear masks. He did say, as you know, this is not going to be a problem. I think he's a Democrat, but that's okay."

Fauci is registered as an Independent and said not to wear a mask at the start of the pandemic as the task force was concerned with having enough personal protective equipment for health care workers. Once the science became clearer, he recommended the practice.

Biden responded by saying it was Trump who panicked when the virus hit U.S. soil, not the American people, drawing on interviews with journalist Bob Woodward.

"Think about what the president knew in January and didn't tell the American people. He was told this was a serious virus that spread in the air and it was much worse -- much worse than the flu," Biden said. "Americans don't panic. He panicked."

Oct 22, 9:36 pm
Biden and Trump on shutdowns

Biden responded to concerns that another shutdown could harm the economy, already hurting from closures caused by the pandemic.

"I'm going to shut down the virus, not the country," he said. "It's his ineptitude that caused the virus -- caused the country to have to shut down in large part. Why businesses have gone under, why schools are closed, why so many people have lost their living and why they're concerned."

After attacking Trump for golfing during the pandemic, Biden said he hadn't ruled out additional shutdowns if necessary.

"You need standards," he said. "The standard is if you have a reproduction rate in a community that's above a certain level, everybody says slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and do not open gymnasiums."

In rebuttal, Trump criticized Democratic governors in several states for shutting down in response to the pandemic.

"They're shut down so tight and they're dying," he said. "They're dying. And he supports all these people. All he talks about is shutdowns. No, we're not going to shut down. And we have to open our schools."

In an example of how young people have better outcomes with coronavirus, the president mentioned his son Baron who tested positive.

"By the time I spoke to the doctor the second time, he was fine. It just went away. Young people -- I guess it's their immune system," he said.

Oct 22, 9:27 pm
Trump: People 'learning to live' with COVID-19; Biden: People 'learning to die with it'


Trump and Biden have contradictory views on the president's handling of the pandemic with Trump asserting he's done better than any other world leader and Biden claiming he's done "virtually nothing."

Trump's insisted again that the pandemic is "going away," touting his administration's efforts on therapeutics and vaccines.

"I don't think we're gonna have a dark winter at all," Trump said. "I say we're learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can't lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does," drawing a laugh from Biden.

Biden emphasized the lives already lost, making a direct appeal to those at home.

"Number one, he says that we're, you know, we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it," Biden said. "You folks home who have an empty chair at the kitchen table this morning, that man or wife going to bed tonight and reaching over to try to touch their -- out of habit where their wife or husband was is gone. Learning to live with it? Come on."

When Trump threatened that Biden would shutdown the country if elected, causing massive economic depression, Biden said, "I'm going to shut down the virus, not the country."

Oct 22, 9:18 pm
In his first answer, Biden attacks Trump for his handling of COVID-19

In response to a question on how he would lead the country out of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden cited the more than 220,000 Americans who had died from the virus.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” he said.

Biden went on to say that Trump doesn’t have a plan for dealing with the virus. He called for mask wearing, and a national policy on mask wearing, more testing and a national policy on reopening schools and businesses.

“I will take care of this. I will end this,” Biden said to close out his first answer. “I will make sure we have a plan.”

Oct 22, 9:15 pm
Trump takes first question on COVID-19, repeats virus is 'going away'


Trump tackled the first question on the coronavirus pandemic but stuck to his stance the pandemic is "rounding the corner" and "going away."

"Since the two of you last shared a stage, 16,000 Americans have died from COVID," Welker said. "So please be specific, how would you lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis?"

"As you know, 2.2 million people modelled out were expected to die," Trump began. "We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China."

He went on to draw from his personal experience contracting COVID-19, downplaying its side effects and touting the country's therapeutics.

"I can tell you from personal experience that I was in the hospital. I had it. And I got better," Trump said. "And I will tell you that I had something that they gave me, a therapeutic, I guess they would call it, some people could say it was a cure. But I was in for a short period of time and I got better very fast or I wouldn't be here tonight. And now they say I'm immune. Whether it's four months or a lifetime, nobody has been able to say that, but I'm immune."

"It will go away and as I say, we're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. It's going away," he added.

Oct 22, 9:06 pm
Debate is underway

The final presidential debate has kicked off from Belmont University in Nashville marking Trump and Biden's final chance to pitch themselves to voters in primetime ahead of Nov. 3. The audience of roughly 200 people in stadium-style seating applauded as the candidates took the stage.

There was a last-minute change to remove the plexiglass partitions placed between the two candidates after Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in and each tested negative for COVID-19. They remain socially distanced with at least 12 feet of space between them.

The first question from moderator Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent, was on COVID-19 and went to the president.

Biden's mic will be muted while the president answers, and Trump's mic will follow suit when it's the former vice president's turn to weigh in.

Oct 22, 8:51 pm
Fauci weighed in on plexiglass partitions, pandemic landscape still on display in hall

Debate organizers removed the plexiglass barriers initially placed between the candidates’ lecterns after speaking with the government’s top expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that he got a call from Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows asking if in his opinion there was a need to have plexiglass between the two candidates.

Meadows then had Fauci talk to a doctor working with the Commission on Presidential Debates, and Fauci explained to the doctor that because the candidates were 12-feet apart, there was no need for plexiglass as droplets wouldn’t reach that far and aerosol isn’t stopped by plexiglass anyway.

Even with the removal of the plexiglass partitions, the coronavirus pandemic is still on display inside the debate hall at Belmont University in Nashville.

All audience members are required to wear masks and will be removed from the event if they refuse, organizers said. The mask requirement comes after several members of the Trump family removed their masks once seated at the first presidential debate in Cleveland.

Singer Kid Rock and professional golfer John Daly, both Trump supporters, were spotted in the audience ahead of the debate’s start without their masks. They put them back on after they were approached by debates staffers.

Oct 22, 8:34 pm
What to watch for during the final debate

The FiveThirtyEight politics crew discusses how the last presidential debate might affect the election. Is there still time to shift opinions, or have voters already made up their minds?


Oct 22, 8:21 pm
No mute button, but mics will be muted


In the wake of that canceled second showdown and a chaotic first debate before it, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier this week it would mute candidates’ microphones at certain points Thursday to avoid interruptions and “maintain order.”

Trump and Biden will now have two minutes each of uninterrupted time to speak at the beginning of each 15-minute segment, of which there are six, in the 90-minute debate.

After the first four minutes of each segment, both of their microphones will go live for an “open-discussion portion,” the commission co-chair said. The moderator will not have control of the candidates' mics at any point. Those will instead be controlled by event production staff.

ABC News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce said on ABC News Live Prime ahead of the debate, “Just because your microphone is down, doesn't mean that you necessarily will stop talking.”

Trump has attacked the integrity of the debate commission and its chosen moderators in recent weeks, deeming it all "crazy" and the new mic rule "very unfair” -- but sources have told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that some advisers think muting the mics will actually help the president.

ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos said the big question for Biden, who leads in nationwide polls, is whether he can close the deal with voters from Nashville. For Trump, it's how will he adjusts his performance after the "disastrous" first debate more than three weeks ago.

"Even the president's own aides called his blustering performance a self-inflicted wound," Stephanopoulos said

Oct 22, 7:11 pm
Trump expected to fire off personal attacks as aides advise him to highlight policy issues


Trump's advisers have urged him to highlight his policy differences with Biden and present his case to the American people as to why he deserves another four years in office, sources said.

He trails Biden in the polls and this is his final opportunity to pitch himself to a large audience in primetime before Election Day.
 
Some top advisers would like to see a less combative, calmer Trump at the debate but concede that is an uphill battle given the president will focus on Biden’s family, which aides hope will get under Biden's skin, multiple sources said. However, other top advisers don't think that focus helps move any of the remaining swing voters.

Aides have also urged him not to interrupt Biden as much and have been re-watching the last debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016 as a guide as the White House views that debate as his strongest. The president's team also intends to heavily monitor the mute button usage, sources said.

Trump has held no mock debates leading up to his final face-off with Biden and has prepped -- in what one source described as a "very compartmentalized" way -- with different subject matter experts providing the president a briefing and preparing notes for the president on a particular topic. He has said his best preparation comes from his exchanges with the press.
 
The group advising the president has also slimmed down. For example, his former counselor Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have taken less prominent roles.
 
-ABC News’ Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Will Steakin

Oct 22, 6:53 pm
Biden plans to focus on reaching at-home viewers


As he boarded his plane to Nashville earlier, Biden spoke briefly with reporters, telling them he's looking forward to the debate and said he hopes Trump plays by the rules.

"There's plenty of time to talk when this is over, OK? So hopefully he's going to play by the rules. Hopefully everyone's been tested. Hopefully it's all worked out, the way the rules are. I'm looking forward to this," Biden said before getting on the plane.

Biden's team has remained tight-lipped about their debate preparation for the final debate, but allies and advisers to Biden said they aren't expecting much of a change from either candidate ahead of the crucial matchup.

"I think Joe Biden is prepared for a completely unconventional debate in which the President of the United States does not act presidential (for) one minute. And the challenge is to not be distracted by the Trump show, and to make sure that Joe effectively puts out his positive vision," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told ABC News.

An aide to Biden said the former vice president plans to again focus on his message to viewers at home, but would not be shy about standing up to Trump's interjections when necessary, especially given reports of the president's planned personal attacks on Biden and his family.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Oct 22, 6:39 pm
Previewing the debate topics


The debate between Trump and Biden will run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with no breaks for commercials.

The program will be divided into six segments of 15 minutes each with topics decided by the moderator, NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker.
 
Topics for Thursday’s debate are:

 

  • Fighting COVID-19
  • American families
  • Race in America
  • Climate change
  • National security
  • Leadership

Oct 22, 6:23 pm
Plexiglass removed from debate stage


The debate commission has removed the two plexiglass barriers that were positioned between the candidates' lecterns.

Peter Eyre, senior advisor with the Commission on Presidential Debates, said that circumstances on the ground have changed and it's unlikely that the plexiglass partitions will be put back up, according to a pool report.

The news follows both candidates reporting testing negative for COVID-19. It's unclear if those who accompanied them to travel to Nashville were also tested.

-ABC News' Drew Millhorn

Oct 22, 6:13 pm
Trump to early vote in Florida on Saturday


The White House announced Trump will vote early in Florida on Saturday.

"President Trump plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach, Florida," spokesman Judd Deere said.

It had been expected that the president would vote absentee, because even as he has railed against mail-in voting, he has also justified his own practice of voting absentee in the past.

-ABC News' Jordyn Phelps


Oct 22, 5:55 pm
Trump vs. Biden: On the issues


ABC News has broken down where each candidate stands on some of the key issues:

Election security and integrity

Racial justice

Health

Economy

Climate change and the environment


Foreign policy

Oct 22, 5:42 pm
Early voting hits record numbers across the country


With early voting having kicked off in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., at least 47 million votes have already been cast in the 2020 general election as early voting data continues to break records across the country.

In 2016, there was a total of 47 million early votes cast, meaning the country has narrowly passed its 2016 early voting data with 12 days still left.
 
According to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by University of Florida's political expert Michael McDonald, as of Thursday at 5 p.m. ET an unprecedented 47,095,528 voters have already cast their ballots and at least 85,133,505 ballots have been requested in early voting states.

TargetSmart, a Democratic firm that collects political data including early voting statistics, reports that 10 million voters who have already voted in the 2020 election did not participate in the 2016 election. Many of these early votes are coming from young voters as well as first time voters with individuals under 30 years old having cast 9.1% of early votes.

During an earlier press conference, TargetSmart predicted that there will still be an additional 40 million early votes as well as between 60-70 million votes on Election Day. Their prediction allots for at least 150 million ballots cast. In comparison, in the 2016 election, there were 138 million total votes.

-ABC News' Kelsey Walsh

Oct 22, 5:26 pm
Candidates to face off at a social distance between plexiglass partitions

Plexiglas partitions were placed on the debate stage next to each candidates' lectern -- already set up at least 12 feet apart -- as a coronavirus precaution for the second and final presidential debate in Nashville.

According to a source familiar with the debates, the partitions were added under the direction of the Cleveland Clinic as part of its responsibility to keep debate participants safe.

Plexiglass became an issue prior to the vice-presidential debate when the two campaigns squabbled over whether to have physical barriers separate the two candidates.

The insistence on barriers was initially met with resistance by Vice President Mike Pence's team, but they were ultimately used.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Kannapolis Police DepartmentBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, LUKE BARR, and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(KANNAPOLIS, N.C.) -- A 19-year-old man charged with possession of child pornography last September was arrested with a cache of guns and explosive materials, a recent court filing reveals, and investigators discovered that he had allegedly traveled within four miles of former Vice President Joe Biden's home after he had posted a meme online asking, "should I kill joe biden?"

Alexander Hillel Treisman was first arrested in May after employees at a bank in Kannapolis, North Carolina, reported his abandoned white van in the parking lot, which led to the discovery by the police of several weapons and contraband inside, according to a court filing by the U.S. Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Officers observed weapons including an AR-15 style rifle, a canister of explosive material, and other ammunition boxes, federal prosecutors said. They also found more than $500,000 as well as several more firearms and "drawings of swastikas and planes crashing into buildings," according to the court filing.

Treisman was arrested soon after and the police and FBI initiated an investigation that uncovered that Treisman had a major interest in terrorist attacks and mass shootings, and had traveled around the country purchasing weapons in various states, according to federal prosecutors.

On Treisman's devices, investigators found that in April he posted a meme with the caption, "should I kill joe biden?" followed by a timeline of internet searches in May where he sought information on Biden's home address, state gun laws, and night vision goggles, the court filing said.

Investigators also found that he had traveled to a Wendy's restaurant within four miles of Biden's home and "wrote a checklist note ending with 'execute,'" according to the filing.

Additionally, the FBI uncovered "a total of 1,248 videos and 6,721 images of child pornography content ... in addition to 637 videos and images of child pornography containing sadism and/or masochism content," the filing said.

The Daily Beast first reported the court filing Thursday afternoon.

Kannapolis police arrested Treisman on May 28, according to federal prosecutors. The filing said that a day after his arrest, there was a jailhouse call between Treisman and his mother, Kimberly Treisman, "in which she suggests that [he] should 'jump bail.'"

The filing states that Treisman has no previous criminal history and that his counsel told the FBI he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at age 12, though he denied any having any mental health conditions in his initial interview with law enforcement.

It's not immediately clear why Treisman has not yet been charged with additional federal crimes other than possession of child pornography.

ABC News has reached out to the U.S. attorney's office in the Central District of North Carolina for comment. Treisman's attorney did not immediately return messages from ABC News requesting comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN and MATTHEW MOSK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump leveled new attacks at the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and the two candidates spent large chunks of Thursday night's debate sparring over criss-crossing allegations of improper foreign business dealings.

The president focused his attacks on allegations that Biden improperly profited from business endeavors that his son, Hunter Biden, has undertaken in Ukraine and China. The Democratic challenger fired back with reports that Trump has tried to strike business deals with the Chinese and even maintained a bank account there.

Prior to the high-stakes debate, Trump's campaign organized a hurried press conference to introduce a surprise guest -- a man who claims he had business dealings with the Biden family.

Tony Bobulinski, a self-described global businessman and retired Naval officer, accused the Bidens of misleading the public about their overseas business dealings – a move intended to shift the public's focus to unsubstantiated and unproven allegations of corruption against the Democratic nominee and his family.

"I have heard Joe Biden say that he has never discussed business with Hunter. That is false," Bobulinski said. "I have firsthand knowledge of this because I directly dealt with the Biden family, including Joe Biden."

With little warning, Bobulinski appeared in a hotel ballroom to speak with the White House reporters who traveled with the president to Nashville, Tennessee, just hours before the candidates took the stage for the second and final debate before Election Day.

The pre-debate event set the stage for a series of attacks Trump leveled against Biden when the debate got underway.

"Somebody just had a news conference a little while ago who was essentially supposed to work with you and your family, but what he said was damning," Trump said. "And regardless of me, I think you have to clean it up and talk to the American people."

Biden shot back: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life."

Bobulinski's emergence came with fewer than 12 days until Election Day. The man who said he had worked to start a business venture with Hunter Biden accused the former vice president of lying about his knowledge of those foreign business dealings. Bobulinski has been advised by a former counsel from the Trump Administration who is currently on the payroll of the Trump Organization, sources told ABC News.

Without fielding reporters' questions, Bobulinski described discussions he held with Hunter Biden beginning in 2015 to partner in a joint venture with a now-defunct Chinese energy firm. Bobulinski pointed to an unverified email from May 2017 -- after Joe Biden left the White House -- in which Hunter allocated a cut of their profit to "the Big Guy," a reference to Joe Biden, according to Bobulinski.

Bobulinski told the reporters his allegations "are corroborated by emails, WhatsApp chats, agreements, documents, and other evidence," including three cell phones he said he would be handing over to Senate Republicans later this week.

ABC News has not verified the authenticity of Bobulinski's documents and there is no direct evidence that Joe Biden was aware of the deal described by Bobulinski.

The Biden campaign immediately issued a full-stop rebuttal of Bobulinski's claims, which it characterized as a "desperate, pathetic farce executed by a flailing campaign with no rationale for putting our country through another four years of hell."

"Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever," said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates. "He has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him."

Trump and his allies have sought to weaponize Hunter Biden's foreign dealings for more than a year. Those controversial endeavors abroad, including in China and Ukraine, did garner criticism from some ethics experts, who said the dealings created an appearances of a conflict.

But no evidence has emerged to suggest that Hunter Biden's private business deals influenced his father's actions or U.S. foreign policy during his time in office. And Joe Biden has said it did not.

During the debate, Biden said "the only one who has made money from China is this guy," referring to Trump. The Biden campaign's response also highlighted recent reporting in the New York Times that ties Trump and his family to Chinese business endeavors over the years.

The newspaper reported that Trump "spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China" and maintains a bank account there.

Trump defended his business interactions in China as something "millions of other people" do, but decided not to move forward when he decided to run for president.

"I was a businessman doing business," Trump said. "The bank account was in 2013 -- that's when it was -- it was closed in 2015, I believe … I had an account open, then I closed it."

Since taking office, the president's adult children, Eric and Donald Jr., have continued to operate The Trump Organization in a host of business deals overseas, including in India, Uruguay, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey during their father's presidency.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



3dfoto/iStockBy ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden face off in the second -- and final -- presidential debate of 2020 Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

The planned topics include fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

Below, ABC News will fact check what both candidates say throughout the 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

Please refresh this page for updates.

Trump misstates Fauci's past comments on masks
TRUMP'S CLAIM: "Nobody knew where it was coming from, what it was. We've learned a lot. But Anthony said don't wear masks. Now he wants to wear masks."

FACT CHECK: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the country, and other public health experts initially told Americans not to wear surgical or N95 masks in the early days of what has become the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as Fauci and other top experts, initially discouraged wearing masks because of concerns that masks and other personal protective equipment were in short supply for health care workers who needed them. Public health officials were also concerned wearing masks could have unintended consequences if people touched their face more often to adjust them or fail to keep social distancing.

"There was this feeling that there would be a shortage just for those who really need them very early on," Fauci said in a recent interview. "That was the big deal. We didn't have enough PPE including masks. Then it became clear that cloth masks worked reasonably well. And therefore there was no more shortage. Then the different analyses, meta analyses and others came in that in fact, it does work."

In early April, the CDC changed its recommendation about face coverings for the general public, based on evidence that a significant number of people who were asymptomatic or not yet feeling sick were transmitting the virus.

Duke University researchers have also concluded that "if 95 percent of people wear cloth masks when within 6 feet of other people in public, it will reduce COVID-19 transmission by at least 30 percent."

Trump also said he thought Fauci was a Democrat, but Fauci is not registered as a member of any political party, according to D.C. voting records.

--Stephanie Ebbs and Arielle Mitropoulos

Biden incorrectly attributes mask statistic to Trump advisers
BIDEN'S CLAIM: "The expectation is we'll have another 200,000 Americans dead in the time between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks, the president's own advisers have told him, we could save 100,000 lives."

FACT CHECK: The president's advisers haven't used this estimate, though the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has strongly recommended wearing them. A modeling study by the University of Washington estimated at one point that if most Americans wore masks, it could save 100,000 lives by the end of the year. That estimate has been repeated by Tom Frieden, who led the CDC under President Barack Obama.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the current head of the CDC under Trump, has not made such a statement.

According to his office, he has said that the pandemic could begin to come under control in eight to 12 weeks "if all people living in America wore a face mask, were smart about social distancing and crowds, and practiced good hand hygiene."

--Anne Flaherty

Trump says Biden called China travel restrictions ‘xenophobic,’ but that’s not clear

TRUMP'S CLAIM: "When I closed, he said, 'This is a terrible thing. You're xenophobic.' I think he called me racist, even, and -- because I was closing it to China. Now, he says I should have closed it earlier. It just -- Joe, it doesn't work."

FACT CHECK: While Trump claimed that Biden opposed his decision to ban most travel from China at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic and that he called the restrictions "xenophobic," the former vice president did not explicitly weigh in on the decision when it was announced on Jan. 31. He did call the president xenophobic minutes after the partial travel ban was announced, but did not call Trump a racist for the decision.

During a campaign event that same day in Fort Madison, Iowa, Biden discussed the growing concern over the COVID-19 outbreak and cautioned that Trump should let science "lead the way."

"In moments like this, this is where the credibility of a president is most needed as he explains what we should and should not do," Biden told the crowd at the event. "This is no time for Donald Trump's record of hysterical xenophobia ... and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science."

The comments came just minutes after the White House announcement, so it was unclear if Biden was referring to the decision specifically, but the former vice president did tweet a similar sentiment the next day.

"We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus," Biden posted. "We need to lead the way with science -- not Donald Trump's record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency."

Throughout March, Biden used the word "xenophobic" in various speeches and tweets to criticize the president labeling COVID-19 as the "China virus."

Biden did acknowledge the travel restrictions put in place by the Trump administration in a March speech, noting they "may" slow the spread.

"Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we've seen, it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than risk will be counterproductive," Biden said.

Biden's campaign did not explicitly discuss the vice president's view of the ban until April.

"Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials and backed by a full strategy," Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN. "Science supported this ban, therefore he did too.

--Molly Nagle

Trump misleads when comparing COVID-19 pandemic to H1N1, Obama administration response

TRUMP'S CLAIM: “Frankly, [Biden] ran the H1N1, swine flu, and it was a total disaster, far less lethal, but it was a total disaster. Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now."

FACT CHECK: While Trump is correct that the H1N1 virus was much less lethal than COVID-19, it is misleading to call the Obama administration's response a "failure."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates up to 575,000 lives were lost to the swine flu worldwide. Of those, fewer than 13,000 were American, due in part to the Obama administration’s “complex, multi-faceted and long-term response,” the CDC later wrote. Thus far, COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 210,000 Americans, a little over eight months since the first known case of the virus was discovered in the United States.

"The team, in my opinion, in 2009, really demonstrated that the planning was worth it. Nothing is ever perfect. But I felt just so impressed and so proud of the job CDC did in 2009," Dr. Julie Gerberding, a CDC director during the George W. Bush administration, told ABC News.

--John VerhovekCopyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(LANSING, Mich.) -- A lawsuit filed Thursday is challenging the legality of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's ban on open-carry firearms at polling sites on Election Day, a directive she says is meant to "protect our voters from intimidation, threats and harassment."

The lawsuit was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims in Lansing by Robert Davis, a labor activist and former school board member in Highland Park, Michigan, who told ABC News on Thursday that Benson's edict is unlawful and is "creating hysteria that simply is not there."

"This secretary of state is driven by power. It's quite evident that this is the classic example of the most egregious government overreach that I've ever witnessed," Davis said.

On Friday, Benson issued guidance to local election officials saying that she is effectively banning open-carry firearms from being brought within 100 feet of polling places, clerk's offices and absent voter counting boards on Election Day.

"The presence of firearms at the polling place, clerk's office(s), or absent voter counting board may cause disruption, fear or intimidation for voters, election workers and others present," Benson's guidance says.

Benson said she issued the directive after consulting with Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel, who reviewed relevant laws and legal precedent and determined that Benson has the authority to issue the directive.

"Of course, Michigan citizens have the right to bear arms and those with a license to carry a concealed weapon may continue to do so in places where that's allowed," Benson said. "This is not a ban on firearms, this is an effort to protect our voters from intimidation, threats and harassment on Election Day."

Michigan does not have early in-person voting.

Officials in multiple states are taking aggressive steps to protect voters from efforts by militias or other armed groups seeking to congregate near polling places on Election Day, as simmering online activity indicates that some groups are trying to register as campaign poll watchers for President Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

The measures come as online accounts tied to neo-Nazi sympathizers and alt-right groups such as the Proud Boys have been generating social posts that encourage supporters to join the campaign's Election Day operations, an ABC News report found. That includes sending out links to register for the Trump campaign's so-called Army for Trump, an effort to recruit supporters to sign up as Election Day poll watchers for the campaign.

Benson's directive came just days after the U.S. Justice Department announced that the FBI had foiled a months-long plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, before the November election and to violently overthrow the state's government.

But Davis said Benson's directive is needlessly stoking fears.

"If you begin to put that idea in people's heads, that causes a reaction out of people," Davis said. "People carry concealed weapons all the time, every single day. So why is the secretary of state trying to violate the law by creating this hysteria that simply is not there?"

Benson's spokesman, Jake Rollow, said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the right to vote is "foundational to our democratic society and preservative of our other basic rights."

Benson's "narrowly tailored directive does not infringe upon the right to bear arms," Rollow said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It simply protects voters and election workers by providing much-needed clarity on the existing state and federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation, harassment and coercion."

Davis also filed an emergency motion requesting an expedited hearing, writing, "This case involves very important procedural and legal matters that will impact the impending November 3, 2020, presidential election."

On Thursday afternoon, Judge Christopher Murray of the Court of Claims gave Benson until 1 p.m. on Monday to respond to the lawsuit. Murray said Davis had until 5 p.m. Monday to reply to Benson's response.

A hearing date has yet to be set, but Davis said he hopes the issue will be resolved prior to Election Day.

"She is going to be the cause of this election to be challenged the week after votes have been cast, because of her unlawful actions of trying to ignore the rule of law as they currently exist in the state of Michigan for her own personal political agenda," Davis said of Benson.

"She has no legal authority to do what she did," Davis told ABC News. "Her intentions may be well-intended, but it loses any significance because it's unlawful. How can you say you're trying to uphold the rule of law, and you're doing something illegal?"

In the lawsuit, Davis argued that the secretary of state's directive to local clerks is essentially a new rule that she unilaterally created under state election law. The suit contends that in creating the law, Benson ignored the requirements of the state Administrative Procedures Act, including giving ample public notice, and that the edict should be ordered null and void.

Robert Stevenson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said police departments do not have the authority to enforce the ban.

"The feedback I've been getting from our police agencies is that they're uncomfortable trying to enforce something they clearly don't have the authority to enforce," Stevenson told the Detroit Free Press newspaper. "Our hope is that this will get resolved and there'll be some clear guidance."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Although Democrats have accepted the new revelation from the intelligence community that both Russia and Iran have obtained voter data in their efforts to interfere in the election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday urged caution on statements coming from the intelligence community less than two weeks from Election Day.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray held a surprise press conference Wednesday night to announce the foreign interference, including news of threatening emails purporting to be from the alt-right group the Proud Boys, who have denied any involvement.

"I think we have to be very careful about any statements coming out about the election from the intelligence community at this time," Pelosi said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that he doesn't question the actions, but is weary of some who get information from overseas.

"I don't have any reason to question that Iran is involved in the two actions identified by the intelligence community and that Russia continues through a variety of platforms to seek to interfere in this election through cutouts, through the laundering of information, through willing members of Congress, through overt media and covert media. It's definitely a situation of voters beware," Schiff told MSNBC on Thursday.

David Cicilline, D-R.I., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC News he has great confidence in the director of the FBI.

"I have less confidence in the director of national intelligence, who made it clear that he believes he serves the interests of the president," Cicilline, who is running for assistant speaker of the House, said. "I don't think there's any question that foreign adversaries, principally Russia and now some activity by the Iranians, is underway to try to corrupt the American presidential election. I don't think there's any question about that."

But not all Democrats agree.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, who has been briefed twice on the recent attacks, told reporters, "I understand Director Ratcliffe made the comments he made," adding that he thought "it was appropriate that the leadership of the community came forward and raised this issue about Iran."

"I think it's a legitimate issue, but I think it's also important that they continue to point out the ongoing threats they face from Russia as well," Warner added.

Warner, like Pelosi and Schiff, said he wants to know more about the attack.

"I've not seen all of the underlying intelligence. I still would like to -- hope to -- see that," said Warner.

But Warner said he wants the intelligence community to address election interference efforts more fully, and he wants daily briefings on the threat leading up to Election Day.

"What I'd like to hear more from the intelligence community is not necessarily the circumstances around Iran, which are critically important, but past comments from the IC about Russian 'disinformation campaigns,'" Warner said.

"I would hope the community would give a full report on all the threats we face," he continued. "Again, the goal here is be non-biased, to be complete, to lay out all the threats active from Russia and Iran and potentially others. And I hope they will do this because none of these threats are going away. I hope they will do this on an ongoing basis over the next 11 days."

Some Republicans said Thursday that the threatening emails that purported to be from Proud Boys were designed to hurt President Donald Trump.

"Clearly Iran was trying to be able to create this whole spin that somehow a racist organization is supporting President Trump and so trying to be able to hurt President Trump by trying to be able to put all of these things out there that they knew would be public to be able to get out there," said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who sits on the Homeland Security Committee.

Lankford was among those who said Iran should be sanctioned, as Russians have been, a move the Trump administration took later Thursday afternoon.

The Treasury Department announced it is sanctioning five Iranian entities for interfering in the 2020 presidential election, including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite branch the Quds Force -- both of which have long been under several U.S. sanctions.

But the new sanctions also include the IRTVU and IUVM, two Quds Force-owned propaganda outlets, as well as Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, which the Treasury Department said is a front company for the Quds Force.

ABC News has learned that Russia and Iran successfully penetrated systems containing voter registration data at the local level, according to two government officials.

According to the sources, who had both been briefed on the intelligence, the security breaches went beyond data from publicly available sources, which was also obtained.

The targeting and weaponization of voter registration information remains an ongoing threat and there are concerns that both countries may try to sow more discord and disinformation to American voters.

The sources declined to say which jurisdictions and how many voters were involved.

In Florida, where the threatening emails targeting Democrats originated, the secretary of state's office told ABC News there was no breach.

"There has been no breach to Florida's Voter Registration database. Information provided in submission of a Florida Voter's Registration," Mark Ard, the communications director for Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, said, adding that voter information is publicly accessible.

Multiple states have said that their voting systems were not compromised.

In a video released on Twitter by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, he said that federal partners informed election officials about the incident, although the timing is unknown. He assured Ohio voters it did not effect them.

"First of all, this did not impact Ohio, but of course, we're working with our federal counterparts monitoring the situation," LaRose said. "We've been in close conversation with them. I really appreciate the work that DHS and FBI have done on this and the fact that they have been forward leaning and making sure that that states all over the nation and our states, elections officials throughout the nation, have been kept apprized of the situation."

In another battleground state, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said that there was no evidence that their voter registration system was hacked.

"Any data that was used to make these email contacts is publicly available," Wolfe said at a press conference. "This is not data that came from statewide databases. So yesterday's announcement, I think the most important thing is it serves as a reminder to all of us as we head into the election, and that is to seek out trusted sources of election information."

ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Jack Date, Trish Turner, Alex Mallin and Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



yorkfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With 12 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters are turning out in record numbers to cast their ballots early as the candidates head to Nashville for a final showdown.

Roughly 42 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The candidates will face off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville this evening -- their last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president remains on defense as polls shows him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes.

Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls -- his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- stayed off the trail this week ahead of the debate, a pattern for the former vice president. The debate offers Biden a platform to solidify his lead so long as he avoids any major mistakes in the homestretch.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., currently have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Here's how the news is developing Thursday. All times Eastern:

Oct 22, 5:21 pm
Record 23,000 volunteer lawyers now helping nation's largest voter protection effort


Officials with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said at least 23,000 lawyers are now volunteering to assist with its Election Protection Hotline, a massive increase from prior cycles and the most on record.

It's a 400% increase from prior cycles when roughly 5,000 volunteers were on-call, according to the committee. The hotline is the nation's largest and longest-running independent voter help hotline.

The increase comes amid growing public demand for voter support along with reports of voter suppression, Kristen Clarke, the committee's president and executive director,  said in a statement Thursday.

Some older Americans committed to voting in person despite COVID
“We have activated a growing network of over 23,000 legal volunteers to help confront the threats that voters and to empower voters with the information they need to ensure that their voices are heard," Clarke said. "By empowering voters, intervening where threats emerge and mounting litigation to address the unlawful barriers that voters have faced during the pandemic, we are fighting to create a level playing field where every voice is heard.”

-ABC News' Devin Dwyer

 Oct 22, 4:53 pm
Biden debate guests to include Black small business owners


Former Vice President Joe Biden said he invited Zweli and Leonardo Williams, a pair of Black entrepreneurs from North Carolina, to the debate Thursday night to bring attention to small businesses.

Democrats of color rally around Kamala Harris amid racial microaggressions, political attacks
The duo are the owners of Zweli’s Kitchen, which is self-described as the “only known Full-Service Authentic Zimbabwean Restaurant in the United States” in Durham.

The campaign was asked about the guests during a Tuesday call with reporters and said they were invited because they represent the struggles of American business owners across the nation.

Oct 22, 4:38 pm
Trump offers contradictory responses on status of long-promised health care plan


President Donald Trump offered contradictory explanations about the status of his long-promised health care plan in an interview with “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, saying initially that it is "fully developed” and will be announced "very soon" only to later say “we will come up with a plan” if the Affordable Care Act is invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Over his nearly four years in office, Trump has repeatedly promised to present a comprehensive health care plan of his own in his quest to do away with his predecessor's landmark "Affordable Care Act."  He has yet to do so.

"It is developed. It is fully developed," Trump told Stahl when asked where his health care plan is and promised: “It's going to be announced very soon."

The president later contradicted his earlier statement, saying “we will come up with a plan" if the Supreme Court rules to nullify the law.

“Will,” Stahl interjected, calling the president on his use of the future tense after he previously said he already had a plan developed.

“We have large sections of it already done,” Trump then said.

The Trump administration currently has a case before the Supreme Court that could effectively strike down the ACA. President Trump told Stahl it is his “hope” that the case will do away with the law.

The president's expression of the law's total nullification contradicted the careful message that Senate Republicans have been delivering in trying to downplay the case's threat to the ACA, as Democrats have put the issue center stage in the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation.

Just prior to the president's tweet releasing a White House recording of his interview with “60 Minutes” prior to the interview's broadcast on CBS, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas stressed that "the issue before the Supreme Court is really one of severability. Just very technical doctrine. It doesn't have anything to do with the merits of the Affordable Care Act. It has to do whether you can sever the unconstitutional portion from the rest of the law and that it will survive."

The president, by contrast, told Stahl "it’ll be so good if they end it.”

The president also claimed his plan would be cheaper than Obamacare and cover people with preexisting conditions. But when Stahl tried to nail the president down on “how” he will cover people with preexisting conditions, the president did not offer any specifics and instead only insisted that people with preexisting conditions will be “totally protected.”

-ABC News' Jordyn Phelps

Oct 22, 3:24 pm
Biden departs for Nashville, says he hopes Trump plays by rules tonight


As he boarded his plane to Nashville for tonight’s final presidential campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke briefly with reporters, telling them he’s looking forward to tonight and said he hope President Trump plays by the rules.

“There’s plenty of time to talk when this is over, okay? So hopefully he’s going to play by the rules. Hopefully everyone’s been tested. Hopefully it’s all worked out, the way the rules are. I’m looking forward to this,” Biden said before getting on the plane.

He also said he hopes everyone gets tested ahead of the event. Biden’s campaign announced he had tested negative for COVID-19 earlier today.

Oct 22, 2:05 pm
First couple departs for debate in Nashville


President Donald Trump and Melania Trump held hands as they departed Washington for Nashville to attend the final presidential debate, marking the first lady's first public appearance since she and the president announced they tested positive for COVID-19.

The first couple emerged from the White House residence and waved to supporters who gathered to see them off. They stood at some distance from the assembled crowd, but they did not wear face coverings.

Once at Joint Base Andrews, the first couple again held hands as they walked across the tarmac with mask-wearing escorts. The pair did not take any questions.

Melania Trump was supposed to join the president on the campaign trail on Tuesday but that appearance was canceled due to a "lingering cough."

The White House previously told ABC News that the president and first lady had both tested negative since falling ill but as of early Thursday afternoon hadn't released information verifying negative tests ahead of the debate.

-ABC News' Jordyn Phelps

Oct 22, 12:52 pm
Biden plans to focus on at-home viewers during debate


Former Vice President Joe Biden’s team has remained tight-lipped about preparation for the final debate, but allies and advisers to Biden said they aren’t expecting much of a change from either candidate ahead of tonight's crucial matchup.

“I think Joe Biden is prepared for a completely unconventional debate in which the President of the United States does not act presidential [for] one minute. And the challenge is to not be distracted by the Trump show, and to make sure that Joe effectively puts out his positive vision,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told ABC News.

An aide to Biden said the former vice president plans to again focus on his message to viewers at home, but would not be shy about standing up to Trump’s interjections when necessary, especially given reports of the president’s planned personal attacks on Biden and his family.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle


Oct 22, 12:07 pm
Biden tests negative for COVID-19 for 13th time since last debate


Campaign officials said Joe Biden tested negative for COVID-19 ahead of his final debate with President Donald Trump tonight.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said in a statement.

It was his thirteenth negative test since the campaign began disclosing test results in the aftermath of the last debate, the campaign said.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Oct 22, 11:28 am
Election officials urge voters to cast mail-in ballots now


With an estimated 55 million requested absentee ballots not yet turned in, top election officials and voter advocates are urging voters to send in their ballots before it's too late.

Earlier this week, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the recommended mail-by date for ballots in her state has already passed and encouraged voters "to return them as soon as possible" by hand delivering them to a local clerk’s office or a ballot drop box.

Officials in 29 states, including Michigan, say absentee ballots must be received by the end of Election Day in order to count. Twenty-one states say absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and can still count if they arrive in a limited window after.

"If you are using the mail, you want to get it in as early as possible -- like now," League of Women Voters CEO Virgnia Kase said in an interview with ABC News Thursday. "Otherwise, dropping it off at one of those secure ballot drop boxes really is probably the safest and easiest way to make sure that your ballot is counted in on time."

-ABC News' Devin Dwyer

Oct 22, 10:53 am
Biden plans commission to reform 'out of whack' court system


In a new clip of his "60 Minutes" interview taped earlier this week in Wilmington, Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden announced he would put together a bipartisan commission to look into the possible options for reforming an "out of whack" court system, again declining to say specifically if he would expand the court at this point.

“If elected, what I will do is I'll put together a national commission of -- bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal/conservative. And I will -- ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it's getting out of whack -- the way in which it’s being handled and it's not about court-packing. There's a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I've looked to see what recommendations that commission might make,” Biden said.

When pressed on if the study would center solely on the issue of packing the court, Biden pushed back, saying there are “a number of alternatives that are -- go well beyond packing.”

Biden said discussions on how to deal with the court is very much a “live ball,” and warned he didn’t want to politicize the institution from president to president.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle


Oct 22, 10:44 am
Plexiglass partitions erected for presidential debate


Plexiglas partitions were placed on the debate stage next to each candidates' lectern as a precaution for the second and final presidential debate in Nashville on Thursday.

Plexiglass became an issue prior to the vice-presidential debate when the two campaigns squabbled over whether to have physical barriers separate the two candidates.

The insistence on barriers was initially met with resistance by Vice President Mike Pence's team, but they were ultimately used.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Douglas Rissing/iStockBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden says, if elected, he would turn to a bipartisan commission for recommendations on what changes should be made to the Supreme Court, calling the current system “out of whack.”

“If elected, what I will do is I'll put together a national commission of -- bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal/conservative. And I will -- ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it's getting out of whack,” Biden said in an excerpt from an interview with the CBS program 60 Minutes, taped earlier this week in Wilmington, Delaware.

“[I]t's not about court packing. There's a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I'd looked to see what recommendations that commission might make,” Biden added.

When pressed on whether the commission study would center solely on the issue of packing the court, Biden pushed back, arguing there are “a number of alternatives that ... go well beyond packing.”

The answer is Biden’s clearest commitment to date of how he would address the Supreme Court as president -- while seemingly punting decisions on reforms to the system including adding seats to the bench as some progressive Democrats have advocated for, six months into his administration.

After deflecting repeated questions about whether he was for or against the idea, Biden said in a town hall with ABC News last week in Philadelphia he was ‘not a fan’ of court packing, but committed the American people would know where he stood before Election Day.

"They do have a right to know where I'll stand and they'll have a right to know where I stand before they vote," he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Progressive Democrats weren't happy with Biden's latest stance, which came out just before the last presidential debate.

"We don't need a commission to tell us that Republicans are about to steal their second Court seat in four years, and that the Court routinely sides with voter suppression tactics that make it harder for Democrats to win elections. This is a punt," Brian Fallon at Demand Justice tweeted.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Biden said discussions on how to deal with the court is very much a “live ball,” and warned he didn’t want to politicize the institution from president to president.

“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”

The question of Biden’s stance on the issue of court packing has lingered in the wake of the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September, when Senate Republicans said they would move forward with the confirmation process for her successor, Judge Amy Coney Barrett -- despite having blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in March 2015 prior citing proximity to the election.

Biden has sought to keep the focus on the stakes of Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the court, particularly when it comes to health care, given her past writings on the Affordable Care Act.

“In the middle of this pandemic, why do Republicans have the time to hold a hearing on the supreme court instead of addressing the significant economic needs of local communities? I’ll tell you why, for real, not hyperbole, I'll tell you why. It’s about wiping Obamacare off the books. That’s what it is about, because their nominee has said in the past the law should be struck down,” Biden said in Durham, North Carolina, Sunday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



DisobeyArt/iStockBy STEPHANIE EBBS, JON SCHLOSBERG, GINGER ZEE and LINDSEY GRISWOLD, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Climate change is set to be one of the topics discussed by former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in the last presidential debate of 2020, but climate scientists say the political conversation often focuses too much on the "what" and "why" that experts already agree on.

The first presidential debate marked the first time climate change has been asked on that stage in 12 years. But the question itself was similar and asked the candidate, in this case Trump, if he believes in concluded science that has found the climate is changing in problematic ways and those changes are caused by human activity.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett called climate change "a contentious matter of public debate" in her recent confirmation hearing. She claimed that, unlike the questions of whether COVID-19 is infectious or smoking causes cancer, the question of whether climate change is real, is controversial.

But climate science experts say there is no controversy when it comes to what is happening to the planet and why. Surveys have found that 97% of climate scientists agree the only explanation for the amount of warming is increased greenhouse gas emissions as a result of human activity.

"The fact that scientists almost unanimously agree that human-emitted greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide like methane are responsible for climate change, the fact that scientists agree on that is really, really, really significant, and it's really telling us something," Kate Marvel, an associate research scientist for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told ABC News.

The issue of climate change has proved important to voters this year, as 68% of registered voters said it's very or somewhat important to their vote according to a recent poll from the PEW Research Center.

"I worry that the policies of the government are not going to match the will of the people, because I think it's important to point out that the hardcore committed climate skeptics deniers -- whatever you want to call them -- that's a very small proportion of the population," Marvel said.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute, said science has concluded the "what" and "why" of climate change. He said that like scientific detectives, researchers have looked at information about the Earth's climate going back billions of years and the fingerprints of human activity are all over the evidence.

"We have evidence from the ocean, we have evidence from the land, we have evidence from the melting glaciers, we have evidence from the Arctic, we have evidence from the Antarctic, we have evidence in the tropics, we have evidence from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere we have evidence coming out of our ears that the climate system is changing," he said.

Schmidt said if people read the literature or talk to anyone in the field, it's clear that human activity (our sources of energy, infrastructure, agriculture and transportation) is the source of greenhouse gases, and it has led to the effects of climate change seen today, as well as the damage to the natural environment, like deforestation.

Scientific conclusions about climate change are combined into major reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Climate Assessment commissioned by Congress through the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The reports represent the best of the best science and have raised the alarm about the impacts of climate change for years.

Don Wuebbles has been researching the climate for decades and has contributed to and co-authored some of those reports. Wuebbles is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois and was the White House expert on climate science for two years under President Barack Obama.

He said the science on climate change is very clear, and the debate has to get past the political divisions.

"There are no natural cycles that can explain this, we don't see them in the climate information we have, and certainly nothing in the last 120 years or so that can explain this," he told ABC News. "This is a huge anomaly relative to those prior times and unheard of within human experience. So the data we have is very clear about giving us, you know, a sense of what's going on."

Major climate reports released in recent years have added to the sense of urgency because they found that the consequences of changes to the atmosphere and environment caused by humans will only get worse.

"In a climate time sense you know, looking out over a decade or more, we're seeing this increased intensity, and that's going to continue," Wuebbles said.

"So it's not just simply warming, you know, 'global warming' is a term the media has always liked and scientists of course called it climate change, because it's so much more than just... the average temperature going up, it's really about these changes in weather extremes and change in sea levels that are really having the significant impact on humanity."

Wuebbles said it's important to mitigate the impact of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and considering how to be more resilient to the changes that we're already experiencing.

"I always tell people we have three basic solutions: We can mitigate, we can adapt or we can suffer, and right now we're doing all three," he said.

"But I can tell you as a scientist, I think it has to be near the top of our list of things that we should be worrying about," he added.

Schmidt said the questions of how to respond to climate change are where the public debate comes into play, because it's up to policymakers and elected officials to decide what to do in response to these challenges, or if they will do anything at all.

"I'm a scientist, not a policy analyst, but the key thing to me is to normalize this idea that we have to be reducing emissions on a sustainable basis, not just for one electoral term, not just for two, but for decades and for decades past that, for for the rest of this century," he said.

Though there are uncertainties around how climate change will play out, Marvel said science has ruled out a future where the impacts are not a big deal, and she said it's important to respond as swiftly as possible to limit the damage.

"The way I think about climate change is, it's not a cliff you fall off. It's more like a slope that you slide down, and the farther down the slope you go the harder it is to turn around and climb back up," she said.

But when asked about what gives her hope in combating climate change, Marvel said she compared it to learning a new language, saying it's not a question of hoping you can do something, but making the decision to do it and taking steps to achieve that goal.

"Probably the single most important thing anyone can be doing is talking to the representatives, voting with consideration that climate change is really an important part of the issues that the world is facing and that we got to deal with this," Wuebbles said. "So if you vote. Think about that."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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